A's open with blast from past Third home run, in 9th, blunts Jays rally, 4-3

October 08, 1992|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

TORONTO -- There must be some mistake. The Bash Brothers were supposed to be a historical footnote. The Oakland Athletics were supposed to be a kinder, gentler team than the one that bruised the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1989 playoffs. But Game 1 of the rematch had a familiar look about it.

The A's hit three home runs, including a game-winning shot in the ninth inning by Harold Baines, to score a 4-3 victory and disappoint a hopeful sellout crowd of 51,039 at SkyDome.

Round up the usual suspects.

First baseman Mark McGwire and catcher Terry Steinbach also tested the boundaries of the ballpark, hitting back-to-back home runs in the second inning that stood up until reliever Jeff Russell gave up a game-tying single to John Olerud with two outs in the eighth inning.

Baines led off the ninth with a towering fly ball into the second deck in right field to cap a three-hit performance and send Toronto ace Jack Morris to a defeat that had to be very deflating for the pennant-hungry Blue Jays organization.

It is only one game, but the psychological implications could be staggering. The Blue Jays already are faced with what appears to be a must-win situation tonight, when right-hander David Cone meets Oakland right-hander Mike Moore in Game 2.

"You can't be down after one game," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "You should pack up and go home if you feel that way. I think you can put this on the plus side because we battled back. We're going to come back out and hopefully win a game tomorrow."

Still, the range of emotions had to be draining. The Blue Jays chipped away throughout the evening, getting home runs from Pat Borders and Dave Winfield before Olerud tied the game. Then Morris grooved a 1-0 pitch to Baines and they were right back where they started. It was just a matter of stopper Dennis Eckersley doing his thing.

"This will be a special one [home run] for a long time," said Baines, a native of Maryland's Eastern Shore. "I was excited that I got us back ahead. Once we're ahead at that point, we know that Eck is going to come in and close the door."

Right-hander Dave Stewart pitched a solid 7 2/3 innings, only to have the decision get away when Russell gave up the game-tying single to Olerud in the bottom of the eighth. He would still get credit for a gutsy performance that only reinforced his reputation as one of baseball's best "money" pitchers. Eckersley pitched a scoreless ninth to record his record 10th playoff save.

"It was a typical A's-Blue Jays game," Oakland manager Tony La Russa said. "The last several years, it seems every game is competitive for nine innings. There wasn't much of a margin between the two teams tonight. We both got great starting pitching. We both hit some home runs. We just ended up with one more run."

Morris went all the way and gave up just six hits, but that was enough to put a dent in his reputation as baseball's Mr. Clutch. The three-homer performance would drop his postseason record 7-2 and leave his team very much on the defensive.

Gaston had hard-throwing right-hander Duane Ward warming up the bullpen, but he defended his decision to leave Morris in the game for the ninth inning.

"Jack has pitched well enough for us this year to warrant sending him out there in the ninth," Gaston said. "He deserved a chance to go out and win the game."

Morris had created an instant sense of anticipation in the normally staid SkyDome crowd when he retired the A's on three straight ground outs in the first inning, but it disappeared with McGwire's tremendous two-run shot in the second. Steinbach made the hole a little deeper with his line drive over the left-field fence.

The back-to-back homers were the first in the American League playoffs since 1980, when Rick Cerone and Lou Piniella hit consecutive homers for the New York Yankees off Kansas City Royals pitcher Larry Gura.

If Morris was shaken by the sudden momentum swing, he collected himself quickly. He struck out the next three batters to end the inning and kept the A's lineup until control until his teammates began to chip away in the middle innings.

Stewart was not untouchable either. He walked the leadoff man in each of the first two innings, but took advantage of a pair of double-play balls to get out of trouble. The Blue Jays threatened in the third, when Devon White walked and Roberto Alomar singled to put runners at the corners with two outs, but Joe Carter popped out to end the inning.

AL playoffs

Toronto Blue Jays vs. Oakland Athletics (A's lead, 1-0) TV: Channels 11, 9

Radio: WBAL (1090 AM)

Game 1: A's 4, Blue Jays 3

Tonight: at Toronto, 8:37

Saturday: at Oakland, 3

Sunday: at Oakland, 4:10

Monday: at Oakland, 3:07*

Wednesday: at Tor., 3:07* or 8:26*

Oct. 15: at Toronto, 8:37*

(*-if necessary)

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