MINNEAPOLIS -- The Toronto Blue Jays finally let some air out of baseball's only inflatable stadium yesterday and wrested away the home-field advantage in the American League Championship Series.
The aura of invincibility that had enveloped the Minnesota Twins at the Metrodome turned out to be as phony as the fiberglass sky. The Blue Jays took the crowd out of the game in the early innings and scored a 5-2 victory to even the best-of-seven playoff at a game apiece.
Rookie pitcher Juan Guzman kept his cool when the sellout crowd of 54,816 tried to turn up the heat, giving up just two runs on four hits over 5 2/3 innings before giving way to the most overpowering short relief combination in the game. Tom Henke and Duane Ward, who combined to save 55 games during the regular season, gave up one hit the rest of the way.
Toronto manager Cito Gaston had hoped that the contrast between Game 1 starter Tom Candiotti and the hard-throwing Guzman would take the Twins out of their offense, but it was a change of speeds on the bases that allowed the Blue Jays to salvage a split at the Metrodome.
Leadoff man Devon White scored three runs and No. 2 hitter Roberto Alomar scored one, as the Blue Jays ran away with a very important victory. They became the first visiting team to win a postseason game at the Metrodome, breaking the Twins' seven-game winning streak.
"They took it to us last night and they did a good job, but I think we put some fear into their hearts because we came back," White said. "I think we carried that over into today. We knew we had to take at least one here."
White led off the game with a single and stole second, prompting Gaston to play for one run. He ordered Alomar to sacrifice, and the Blue Jays took the lead on an RBI single by Joe Carter.
If the decision to bunt with a runner at second and no one out in the first inning seemed slightly unorthodox, it was not without foundation. Gaston apparently felt it was critical to get on the scoreboard first, and there is a statistical basis for that approach. The team that has scored the first run has won 13 of the 14 games between the Blue Jays and Twins this year.
"I have always considered it very important to get the first run," Gaston said. "We have done that a few times before. They went out and got two runs in the first inning last night and you saw what happened."
The Twins ran up a five-run lead Tuesday night and then held off a sixth-inning rally. The Blue Jays obviously were determined not to let it happen again.
"You've got to go out and score early and put the pressure on them," Carter said. "They went out and put the pressure on us last night."
Gaston did not play it the same way when White opened the third inning with a double. Alomar took a full swing and beat out an infield hit to put runners at first and third with no one out. Twins starter Kevin Tapani came within an out of pulling a great escape, but Kelly Gruber looped a two-out broken-bat single to right to stake Guzman to a three-run advantage.
The Twins scored once in the third inning and once the sixth to make it a one-run game, but the top of the Toronto lineup again was instrumental in a two-run seventh inning that kept Minnesota at a safe distance.
"That's what we've talked about for a week, that you have to keep Devon and Roberto off the bases," said Twins manager Tom Kelly. "They scored three or four runs. They were the two guys. Obviously, we didn't do a good job."
Tapani, who was one of the most effective pitcher in the league down the stretch, worked 6 1/3 innings and gave up four runs on eight hits to lose in his postseason debut.
Guzman walked two of the first three batters he faced in the first inning, but ignored the gathering roar to work out of the jam.
No one could have known exactly what to expect from the 24-year-old right-hander, but he kept his wits about him and kept an amazing roll alive. He has lost just once in 12 decisions dating to a pair of June losses to the Baltimore Orioles in his first two major-league starts.
"Juan has pitched a lot of baseball," Gaston said. "He's a pretty calm kid, or at least he seems to be calm."
Guzman said going in that the Metrodomemania would be nothing compared with the craziness that erupts in the stands in his native Dominican Republic. He apparently knew what he was talking about, but the early lead did not hurt.
The pressure of pitching for a pennant didn't seem to bother him either, though he got in trouble with a pair of sixth-inning walks and needed Henke to get the last out of the inning.
"I didn't really feel it [the pressure]," Guzman said. "I already had pitched against them and I knew what I could do against them."
He'll get a chance to do it again at the Metrodome if one of the teams does not sweep the three weekend games in Toronto. Gaston would not rule out moving Guzman up to pitch in Game 5 at SkyDome, but he said that the Blue Jays probably will stay with a four-man postseason rotation.