Winfield, Jays drive out doubts Power show ushers O's from race, 8-2

September 25, 1992|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

It's still over.

The Toronto Blue Jays left nothing to chance last night, striking for seven runs in the first two innings on the way to an 8-2 victory that extinguished the last real glimmer of hope that the Orioles might make a miraculous end run at the division title.

The American League East race has been narrowed to two teams. The Milwaukee Brewers defeated the California Angels to remain 3 1/2 games out of first place, but they'll need more help than they got in Baltimore to keep the Blue Jays from waltzing into the playoffs.

Right-hander Ben McDonald gave up seven runs in 1 2/3 innings to suffer his sixth straight loss as the Orioles fell six games off the pace with 10 to play. Their tragic number has fallen to four -- the number of Toronto wins and Orioles losses necessary to mathematically eliminate them from the race.

Of course, you don't need a mathematician to realize that the laws of probability already have spoken. You don't even need a )) pocket calculator anymore. It has been a great season. Now it's time for the Orioles to mop up as many victories as they can during the next 10 days and begin building for next year.

The series with the Blue Jays left little room for debate over which team was superior. The Orioles have played well this year, but they were outmanned all season and it finally showed down the stretch. The Blue Jays have won 17 of their last 24 games to assert themselves when it mattered most. They took the season series from the Orioles, eight games to five. They took the last one in such resounding fashion that most of the sellout crowd of 45,739 was gone well before the final out was made.

Designated hitter Dave Winfield provided much of the offensive punch with a three-hit, four-RBI performance that showed why he has been a key ingredient in Toronto's latest attempt to reach the World Series.

"I'm happy we got two out of three," Winfield said. "Looking at the scoreboard, we are going to have to win this ourselves. We have eight games left and we need to win six of them."

The situation isn't quite that extreme, but the Brewers have won seven of their last eight and they are showing no signs of giving up the chase. This time, the Blue Jays did not give them time to think about gaining ground.

Winfield lowered the boom on McDonald with two outs in the first inning, delivering a mammoth two-run home run that put his name on another page of the record book. The two RBI gave him 101 for the year and made him the oldest player (he'll be 41 on Oct. 3) in the major leagues to have a 100-RBI season. They also moved him past Reggie Jackson and into 15th place on the all-time RBI list with 1,703.

"We had a big blow in the first inning," said Winfield. "That really set the tone for the game. I'm glad to do it with a home run and I'm glad to do it in a pennant race."

But he was not quite finished. Winfield also delivered a two-run double in the second as the Blue Jays batted around to score five times and take a seven-run lead.

McDonald was finished by then. The first-inning home run was the 32nd he has given up this year -- three shy of the club record held by Robin Roberts (1963) and Scott McGregor (1986). McDonald pitched to seven batters in the second and allowed five of them to reach base before giving way to Bob Milacki.

The loss dropped McDonald's record to 12-13, the first time this year he has been below .500. He has not come out a winner since he defeated last night's starter Jimmy Key and the Blue Jays, 11-4, on Aug. 12 at SkyDome. Since then, the Orioles are 0-8 in the games he has started, but he had pitched very well (2.33 ERA) in the four starts leading into last night's game.

"You're going to take a step backward once in awhile," manager Johnny Oates said. "You're not going to do it boom-boom-boom every time the way [Mike] Mussina was doing it earlier this year. Ben has grown both on and off the field this year. He has become a better pitcher."

The second inning took nearly an hour. It featured a squeeze bunt by Alfredo Griffin that sailed over the head of McDonald. It featured a foul tip that would drive Joe Carter out of the game with a bruised knee. And it featured a near-comeback by the Orioles, who had the tying run on deck when it finally came to an end.

Griffin's safety squeeze drove home the first run of the inning and Roberto Alomar brought home the second wituh a ground out before Carter knocked McDonald out of the game with an RBI single. Winfield greeted Milacki with a line drive down the left-field line to make it a four-RBI evening.

Leading 7-0, that should have put Key in the comfort zone, but nothing has come easy for the Blue Jays left-hander this year. He allowed a leadoff single to Glenn Davis in the bottom of the second and walked the next two batters to load the bases.

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