ANAHEIM, Calif. -- If the Toronto Blue Jays win the American League East championship, they will have the California Angels to thank for nudging them out of a slump.
Yesterday, for the second successive game, the Blue Jays foiled the Angels' strategy of issuing an intentional walk to create a more favorable pitching matchup. And for the second successive game, timely hitting enabled Toronto to defeat one of the Angels' 17-game winners and distance itself from the Boston Red Sox.
This time, John Olerud's three-run home run after an intentional walk to Candy Maldonado capped a six-run fifth inning and carried Toronto to a 7-2 rout of the Angels before 19,251 at Anaheim Stadium.
Just as walking Pat Tabler in the 10th inning Tuesday to bring up Pat Borders backfired and set up Borders' game-winning, three-run homer, walking Maldonado yesterday to pit Olerud against Mark Langston (17-8) also failed.
The two hadn't met before yesterday, but Olerud read Langston well enough to launch a 2-0 fastball into the right-field seats and give Toronto a 4-5 record on its West Coast trip.
The victory stretched the Blue Jays' lead over the rained-out Red Sox to 2 1/2 games.
"I'll take this trip just the way it ended today," said Gene Tenace, the Blue Jays' interim manager while Cito Gaston recovers from back problems. "Considering everything that happened, four wins is reasonable."
Olerud said he wasn't surprised to see the Angels walk Maldonado, who was 5-for-14 against Langston in his career.
"I don't think it was a bad move on their part. I think I would have done the same thing," Olerud said.
"Langston was pitching me tough, and I just got ahead and got a fastball. I didn't know it was out until it cleared the fence. I felt I'd hit the ball better [Tuesday] night against [Jim] Abbott, and it didn't go out, but I heard the ball flies out of here in day games."
Langston never established a good rhythm, but he got by on his breaking pitches while the Angels scratched out runs in the first and third innings off Jimmy Key (16-11). But by the fifth, Langston could no longer fool the Blue Jays, who produced three singles and Roberto Alomar's two-run double before Olerud's homer.
"A whole lot of things weren't really right today. I just pitched badly," Langston said. "I just got behind to Olerud and had to come in with a strike, and he got it. He's a decent hitter, and any time you get behind and have to come in, you're giving yourself an opportunity to get hit hard, and I did."
Angels manager Buck Rodgers picked the Blue Jays to win the AL East.
"I think that was a big game Toronto won [Tuesday] night," he said. "They had maybe the best pitching performance of the year against them and they win in 10 [innings]. That's a confidence-builder.
"They come out today and beat us, and they're building momentum. In that kind of race, all it takes is a short momentum run to push you over the top. Toronto has got speed plus power. They're a very well-balanced team."