It could have been, and perhaps should have been, a lot better.
By dropping three straight this weekend to the Detroit Tigers, the Toronto Blue Jays did their best to make this week's four-game showdown with the Orioles take on late September importance.
But only in yesterday's 3-2, 10-inning win over the Cleveland Indians did the Orioles take advantage of the Blue Jays' giving nature, as they stumbled in the first two games of the series.
But the Blue Jays, who have beaten the Orioles 13 of 19 times at SkyDome, including seven times in their last at-bat, probably will not be as generous in person as they have been from afar.
"Every time I pick up the paper, I see that Jack Morris is winning another game or Dave Winfield is driving in another game-winning run," said Rick Sutcliffe, yesterday's starter. "It's time for some of us to start doing some of the same things.
"I don't point the finger. If I go .500 over my last 10 starts, we're in first place. It's just the time for guys like myself who are expected to produce to produce."
Chalk it up to sunspots or the improved play of a heretofore patsy, but the Orioles squandered more than a few opportunities this past weekend and are extremely fortunate to be going to Canada trailing Toronto by just two games.
"This is the first time in a while that we didn't execute and it cost us a couple of games," said Mark McLemore, who scored the winning run yesterday.
Sutcliffe, who allowed two runs and five hits in 6 1/3 innings yesterday, agreed.
"We were a little flat this weekend," he said. "Friday, the triple play took something out of us and [Saturday night] you just have to tip your hat to Charles Nagy [who one-hit the Orioles]. Today, we just came out and battled."
Coming in on a six-game winning streak, the Orioles very nearly dropped three straight to the Indians, the second-worst team in the American League, because they couldn't cash in runners.
In Friday's 5-4 loss in 13 innings, the Orioles saw a bases-loaded, no-out situation become their 14th triple play in team history. On Saturday, they were blanked by Nagy, of whom yesterday's winner, Storm Davis, said "would have one-hit anybody in the league."
Yesterday, despite getting at least one runner aboard in all but three innings, the Orioles didn't capitalize until Cal Ripken singled home McLemore through a drawn-in infield in the 10th.
Thankfully, for the Orioles -- who are now as close to the Blue Jays as they have been since July 4 -- Sutcliffe and Davis kept them alive long enough for the hitters to get going.
"From a pitcher's perspective, I want to get that team off the field and don't let them get any momentum," said Davis, who got the win holding Cleveland scoreless over 3 2/3 innings with two hits. "You want to give your team a chance."
"Usually, all wins are the same. This is one of the ones I'm going to enjoy a little more," said manager Johnny Oates.
Oates will especially savor the 10th inning, where McLemore's base-running caution could have killed their rally, had Cleveland reliever Eric Plunk not taken him off the hook.
McLemore led off the inning with a single and was sacrificed to second by Jeff Tackett. The Indians then brought in left-hander Derek Lilliquist to face Brady Anderson. Anderson grounded up the middle, which should have moved McLemore to third, except McLemore waited to see if Lilliquist would field the hit.
Anderson legged out a hit, and on came Plunk, who walked Mike Devereaux to load the bases and take the goat horns off McLemore. Ripken, who was previously 3-for-22 lifetime off Plunk, then singled to left through the drawn-in infield and the game was over.
"In previous years, I'd have looked more forward to batting in that situation," said Ripken, who went 2-for-5 to raise his average to .257. "I was hoping Devo would get a hit, but when it's your turn, you still like those situations."
The Orioles, who got swept in Toronto in the season's first week and took two of three at Camden Yards in June, now must like their situation as they face a Blue Jays club that has sputtered of late, losing five of eight, but is still the defending division champion.
"We're not talking about playing our Triple-A team," said Sutcliffe. "We're talking about playing the team you guys [media] said was the best team in our division. We went up there [in April] believing what you guys were writing all spring.
"But we're a better team now. We had the opportunity to play them here and we gained some confidence. We don't need to change anything. We just need to play well."