Blue Jays save one for Rangers, win, 1-0 Victory 3rd straight for Toronto and Cone

September 20, 1992|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

TORONTO -- In their SkyDome clubhouse after Friday night's 13-0 blowout of the Texas Rangers, several members of the Toronto Blue Jays joked about whether they should have saved a few of those runs for the team's recently struggling offense.

"You don't like to see that," said center fielder Devon White, who had hit one of Toronto's three home runs, had two of his team's 13 hits and had driven in a season-high four runs. "I hope we have enough left for tomorrow."

As things turned out yesterday, the Blue Jays had barely any oomph left in their bats: one run to be exact. But good base running, good pitching, good defense and more than its share of good luck helped Toronto beat the Rangers, 1-0, before a sellout crowd of 50,421.

The victory was both the third straight for the first-place Blue Jays (88-62) and for right-hander David Cone (3-2) since he came from the New York Mets last month. Cone gave up four hits in seven innings -- the same numbers as Texas starter Scott Chiamparino (0-3) -- and pitched out of several early jams.

"The guy pitched one heck of a game," Cone said of Chiamparino, a 26-year-old right-hander who spent most of this season rehabilitating a rebuilt elbow in his pitching arm. "He was tough. I had by far my best stuff since I came over, but I was lucky. I was fortunate to get some of their hitters to hit line drives right at John Olerud."

Cone escaped by that route twice: in the fourth, when Jeff Frye lined into an inning-ending double play with runners on first and second; in the sixth, when after singles in his first two at-bats, Ivan Rodriguez hit a sharp liner to Olerud with two on and two out.

With the Orioles' 4-1 loss in Milwaukee, the Blue Jays again lead the American League East by a comfortable five games. But for the first time in nearly five months, Toronto's closest pursuers are the Brewers. Baltimore, which starts a three-game series with Toronto on Tuesday night at Camden Yards, dropped to 5 1/2 behind.

"It's not going to be a cakewalk," said relief pitcher Tom Henke, who picked up his 30th save after coming in for the final inning. "But we don't have to look over our shoulders as long as we keep winning. The whole team's kicking in now. [Friday] was the hitting. Today it was the pitching."

Perhaps the key contribution came from a most unlikely source: former starting shortstop Alfredo Griffin. Griffin, 35, who is rarely used as a backup to Manuel Lee, had a one-out double in the sixth and made two heady moves on the base paths to produce the game's only run.

First, Griffin helped get White out of a rundown after the Blue Jays' leadoff hitter overran first base on a single to right. Griffin faked toward home, forcing second baseman Frye to make a throw. Then, with the infield drawn in, Griffin saw that Frye would have trouble throwing home on Roberto Alomar's soft ground ball.

"Alfredo to me was the key, the way he helped Devo [Devon White] out of a rundown and then the way he ran on Robby's ground ball," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "He won the ballgame for us."

Said Griffin: "I was looking for a slow ground ball. If he hit the ball hard, I could have scored. But I read it right, and I just took off. I'm happy to be in the lineup and making some kind of contribution."

If Griffin helped put the Blue Jays ahead, it was Toronto's superb relief pitching and a sparkling catch by right fielder Joe Carter that helped preserve the victory. After walking Dean Palmer to lead off the eighth, Duane Ward struck out Jose Canseco and got Juan Gonzalez to hit into a broken-bat, inning-ending double play.

Henke then came on for Ward in the ninth. After Rafael Palmeiro flied routinely to right, Kevin Reimer hit a sharp liner down the right-field line. Carter ran 15 feet to chase the ball down, then fell as he caught it, robbing Reimer of a potential extra-base hit. Henke struck out Rodriguez to end the game.

"I've seen him to do that so many times that it's almost become routine," Henke said of Carter. "I was thinking that it might drop in front of him. I was hoping that it wasn't going to get away from him. Joe made a super play."

Even though Cone wasn't in the game at the time, he was watching it on television in the clubhouse. Since joining the Blue Jays, the 29-year-old right-hander has found himself in the middle of a pennant drive that eluded him the past two years with the Mets.

"These 1-0 games are scary," he said. "You can't make a mistake. I thought I was pitching for the Mets again. But we have much better defense."

Along with a few other things.

AL East race

.. .. .. .. .. W .. .. L .. .. Pct. .. .. GB

Toronto ... .. 88 . .. 62 . .. .587 .. .. --

Milwaukee . .. 82 . .. 66 . .. .554 .. ... 5

Orioles .. .. 81 . .. .. . .. .551 .. .. 5 1/2

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