Carter sees road as no detour for Jays Eager to get up, rattle White Sox in a hurry

October 05, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- It means sacrificing the home-field advantage, but Joe Carter is happy the Toronto Blue Jays are opening the American League Championship Series on the road.

"We've got a great offense, and opening on the road enables us to hit first and gives us a chance to put some pressure on them right away," said Carter. "With a guy like Rickey [Henderson] we can set the tempo right away."

And even though they will be facing the league's top winner, Jack McDowell (22-10), the Blue Jays' best opportunity may be in tonight's opening game. The matchup of McDowell against Juan Guzman (14-3) figures to be the best one for the Blue Jays, who cannot match the depth of the White Sox starters.

"If there's a key, I think it's important for us to win one of the first two games in their park," said Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston. "Up until this year we haven't played well there in the past."

The Blue Jays were 3-3 against the White Sox this year at the new Comiskey Park, after going 2-4 in each of the two previous years there.

"At least we'll be going in there with the feeling that we've played well there this season," Gaston said. "It will be a battle of evenly matched teams."

The Blue Jays and White Sox played their season series as evenly as possible -- splitting six games at both locations. The difference, according to just about everybody involved, will come down to the basics -- but it goes beyond that as far as the Blue Jays are concerned.

While baseball logic dictates the team that gets the best pitching, plays the best defense, makes the fewest mistakes, etc., will win the series, there's no doubt that the Blue Jays' offense will be a key factor. They are not going to successfully defend their World Series championship on the strength of pitching alone.

The fact that the White Sox have virtually no postseason experience could be another advantage for the Blue Jays. "It's been 10 years since they've been there [the White Sox lost to the Orioles in the 1983 ALCS] and they'll be pumped," said Carter.

"We'll be pumped, too, but we might be a little more subdued, a little more relaxed," he added. "Maybe that can help us put some pressure on them early. . . . They have a quality team and a quality [pitching] staff, but we're a very offensive-minded team."

In addition to the top three hitters in the AL -- John Olerud, Paul Molitor and Roberto Alomar -- the Blue Jays have three players with more than 100 runs batted in -- Carter, Olerud and Molitor -- and Alomar has 93.

"And we've got five guys [Devon White, Henderson, Molitor, Olerud and Alomar] who have scored more than 100 runs -- and I've got 92," Carter said. "This last week has been a lot of fun, we were relaxed and had time to get ourselves ready. Now it's crunch time."

The experience factor cannot be overlooked, but it is downplayed by White Sox manager Gene Lamont. "Nobody can argue that point, but I don't think it's that important," Lamont said.

When his assessment was met with raised eyebrows, Lamont said: "What would you say if you were me?

"There may be some jitters early, but I really don't think it will be that much of a factor," said Lamont, who has postseason experience as a coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates for the two years before getting the job with the White Sox.

Molitor, who had a career season as the Blue Jays' designated hitter, and is one of the AL East champion's players with postseason experience (1982 with Brewers), agrees with Lamont. "I don't think it [experience] is something you can count on," said Molitor. "That's something that has to be played out on the field."

He mentioned Wilson Alvarez and Jason Bere, who are scheduled to start the third and fourth games for the White Sox.

"You look at how they have responded to the pressure of a division race and you can tell they are not going to be intimidated. We're going to have to go out and score some runs and put pressure on them."

That's what every assessment of the series comes down to -- the ability of the Blue Jays to put runs on the board. The White Sox have been shut out a staggering 14 times this year, an indication their offense is suspect.

If Frank Thomas is not healthy, that would put an added strain on the White Sox pitching staff. The slugging first baseman played the final game of the season Sunday, but missed most of last week because of tendinitis in his left forearm.

Thomas may not be 100 percent, and certainly will draw a lot of attention in tonight's opener. Neither of the Game 1 pitchers fared well against his opponent this season, adding another dimension to the intrigue of this series.

McDowell was 0-2 against the Blue Jays with a 5.68 ERA; Guzman was 1-2 against the White Sox with a 4.50 ERA.

They are the aces of their staffs, but the other three matchups (Dave Stewart-Alex Fernandez, Pat Hentgen-Alvarez and Todd Stottlemyre-Bere) could well decide the outcome.

The general belief is that pitching will prevail in such a hitting vs. pitching confrontation, but as Molitor pointed out, it has to be played out on the field.

TONIGHT'S PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS

Blue Jays ... ... ... Pos. ... ... ... ... White Sox

Pat Borders .. .. ... C ... .. ... ... ... Ron Karkovice

John Olerud .. .. ... 1B .. .. ... ... ... Frank Thomas

Roberto Alomar .. ... 2B .. .. ... ... ... Joey Cora

Ed Sprague ... .. ... 3B .. .. ... ... ... Robin Ventura

Tony Fernandez .. ... SS .. .. ... ... ... Ozzie Guillen

Paul Molitor .. .. .. DH .. .. ... ... ... George Bell

Rickey Henderson ... LF ... .. ... ... ... Tim Raines

Devon White .. .. .. CF ... .. ... ... ... Lance Johnson

Joe Carter ... .. .. RF ... .. ... ... ... Ellis Burks

Juan Guzman .. .. .. P ... ... ... ... ... Jack McDowell

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