Blue Jays cast their spell on Orioles Magic Olerud drives in 4 in 7-2 victory

June 29, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

The Toronto Blue Jays arrived in town to find that the rebirth of Orioles Magic had been greatly exaggerated. They were the guys who had an answer when everyone around here was saying "Why Not?" in 1989, and they knocked the Orioles down a notch again last night.

The largest crowd in the brief history of Camden Yards -- 46,606 -- packed in to see the first game of this first-half showdown, but the Blue Jays scored a one-sided 7-2 victory that pushed the Orioles six games out of first place in the American League East.

Something had to give. The Orioles came in on a roll, winning 19 of 23 games to climb back into a division race that seemed all but lost a month ago. The Blue Jays also got off to a slow start but had gone 30-13 during the past six weeks to return to the top of the standings.

Someone had to give in. Orioles starter Rick Sutcliffe had not lost a game since April 27. Blue Jays starter Todd Stottlemyre has never lost to the Orioles, and he improved his career record against them to 8-0 with a resourceful six-inning outing.

Somebody has to get John Olerud out eventually, but it didn't happen last night. He drove in two runs with a first-inning single and two more with a game-breaking double in the seventh to raise his league-leading batting average to .406.

Manager Johnny Oates was saying just before the game that the five batters at the top of the Blue Jays lineup might be the best top five in all of baseball, and he saw nothing last night that would alter that opinion. They combined to reach base 14 times in 25 plate appearances (.560 on-base percentage) and scored all seven runs to send the Orioles to their second straight defeat.

Leadoff hitter Devon White made things happen at the top of the order, getting on base to start two-run rallies in the first inning and the third. No. 2 hitter Roberto Alomar had three hits and scored three runs.

In a roundabout way, the loss provided an illustration of just how well things had been going for the Orioles. They had not lost back-to-back games since dropping three straight to the California Angels May 28-30. But once again, when the excitement level reached a fever pitch, the Blue Jays were there with a dose of reality.

"Talentwise, they've been the best team in the league since I've been here," Oates said. "They've won three division titles and a World Series in four years, so it's not a surprise that if you're fighting for a pennant, you're going to be playing the Toronto Blue Jays."

The Orioles are back in the hunt, but they cannot match up man-for-man against the Blue Jays, even after Joe Carter was lost to a slight hamstring strain after two at-bats.

They arrived at the ballpark yesterday already guaranteed a winning record on this nine-game homestand, but they still need solid showing against the Blue Jays to avoid giving back too much of the ground they gained the past week.

Oates doesn't like to put too much emphasis on any early-season game or series, but he could not entirely discount this series.

"The whole homestand has been big," he said. "Detroit was in first place when they came here and the Yankees are a very good team, but I didn't do anything different against them . . . though in my mind this is the best of those three teams."

In each of the previous two series, the first game proved to be pivotal. The Orioles came back from a six-run deficit to defeat the Tigers in the homestand opener and went on to complete a demoralizing three-game sweep. The Yankees also blew a six-run lead in the series opener and lost two of three games.

Comebacks are becoming commonplace at Camden Yards, but the Blue Jays didn't hesitate to put this latter-day version of Orioles Magic to the test. They jumped all over Sutcliffe early to take a three-run lead.

Sutcliffe (8-3) made things difficult for himself from the beginning. He walked White to lead off the game and walked Paul Molitor to load the bases after a single by Alomar. Carter followed with a sharp ground ball to third that Leo Gomez turned into a force at the plate, but Olerud lined a single to put Toronto up by two.

No doubt, Sutcliffe would have liked to have been in a position to pitch around the first baseman, who came into the game leading the league with a .405 average, but Olerud stayed hot and dropped the ball in front of Mark McLemore in right.

"They've got a lot of good things going for them right now," said Sutcliffe, who gave up seven runs on eight hits in 6 2/3 innings, "but their key is like everybody else. You've got to get their leadoff guy out. That's what got me."

The Orioles have never beaten Stottlemyre, but he looked beatable early on. He gave up a run in the second inning on a couple of singles and a sacrifice fly by David Segui. He worked out of trouble in the third, but the Orioles added a second run on three two-out hits in the fourth.

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