CHICAGO -- The American League Championship Series has been billed as a classic matchup between pitching and hitting. But if Game 1 is an indication, it will be a slugfest of marathon proportions.
The Toronto Blue Jays collected a club postseason record 17 hits and beat the Chicago White Sox, 7-3, last night to gain the early advantage in the best-of-seven AL Championship Series. The expected duel between the pitching aces, Juan Guzman of the Blue Jays and Jack McDowell of the White Sox, was only barely in evidence during the early innings.
With Ed Sprague, John Olerud and Paul Molitor driving in all of Toronto's runs, McDowell lasted 6 2/3 innings, but gave up 13 hits, the most ever allowed by a pitcher in an AL Championship Series game. All seven runs scored by the Blue Jays came with two out.
"The three times they scored against Jack [McDowell], it seemed like it happened quick," said White Sox manager Gene Lamont. "I thought the fifth was the big inning for us.
"We got the lead [in the fourth], but we couldn't hold them. The hit that killed us was the one by Olerud, but the one that really hurt us was the infield hit by [Joe] Carter."
Guzman actually was outlasted by McDowell, as he worked only the first six innings before leaving. During his stay on the mound,Guzman allowed just five hits, but cluttered the bases by walking eight and hitting a batter.
The White Sox, who left eight runners on base in the first four innings, had numerous opportunities. But they were able to score in only one inning against Guzman, whose only three strikeouts helped him escape three other threats.
Sprague, who drove in the game's first two runs, and Molitor, whose seventh-inning homer provided the final pair, each had four hits. Olerud, whose fifth-inning double drove in the two runs that erased a 4-3 White Sox lead, added three more.
"We tried to be aggressive against Jack [McDowell]," said Molitor. "Sometimes that results in swinging at some bad pitches, but when he gets you deep into the count, he's got so many different pitches that it makes them that much more difficult."
In addition to having the defending World Series champions in position to take control of the series, there was another scary scenario for the White Sox. The scoring spree took place without any contribution from Rickey Henderson, who is expected to give the Blue Jays' potent offense an added weapon.
Henderson, who hit only .215 in 44 games after being obtained from Oakland July 31, wasn't a factor last night, going hitless in six at-bats. And while the White Sox took Henderson out of the game by getting him out, the Blue Jays minimized Frank Thomas a familiar way -- by not pitching to him.
"I'm not surprised," said Lamont. "A lot of teams did that against us late in the season. It wouldn't surprise me much if they decided to do the same thing."
Thomas set an AL Championship Series record by walking four times (he singled in his only official at-bat), but Toronto manager Cito Gaston said it wasn't by design. "I think Juan [Guzman] was a little pumped up," he said. "I don't care how many of these things you're in, you're going to get some butterflies. We're not going to intentionally pitch around him all the time."
Guzman's control gave the White Sox opportunities in each of the first three innings, but he escaped each time. He said before the game that he would heed the advice of veteran teammate Dave Stewart and challenge everybody, including Thomas, the most feared hitter in the White Sox lineup.
Thomas, who walked four times, was stranded all five times he reached base. After a two-out walk in the first inning, Guzman threw a pair of wild pitches, but Robin Ventura struck out, leaving Thomas at third base. In the second, Ellis Burks led off with a double over the head of center fielder Devon White, who badly misjudged the line drive,and Dan Pasqua was hit by a pitch.
But Lance Johnson flied out, Ron Karkovice hit into a force and Ozzie Guillen grounded out. Guzman made his third straight escape an inning later, getting Ventura to ground out and Burks to fly out after issuing back-to-back walks to Joey Cora and Thomas.
The White Sox tried to run to the lead in the sixth inning, but the tactic backfired. Raines led off with a single, but was thrown out trying to steal on a throw by Pat Borders.
That turned out to be a vital play as Cora followed with a walk and, finally given a chance to swing, Thomas lined a base hit to center field. At that point, the White Sox had put 15 runners on base in only 5 1/3 , but Guzman was allowed to finish the inning.
For Molitor, it was the first postseason game in 11 years, but he played as if he never had been away -- the Blue Jays' designated hitter had five hits in his first World Series game in 1982.
"It's definitely been a long drought [from postseason play]," said Molitor. "The last few days I was feeling some anxiety, but once the first pitch is thrown, you realize it's just another game."
AL PLAYOFFS TODAY
Site: Comiskey Park, Chicago
Time: 3:05 p.m.
Blue Jays starter: Dave Stewart (12-8, 4.44)
White Sox starter: Alex Fernandez (18-9, 3.13
TV: Channels 11, 9
% Radio: WBAL (1090 AM)
AL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE
CHICAGO WHITE SOX vs. TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Blue Jays lead series, 1-0
Gm. ...... Result
1 .... Blue Jays 7, White Sox 3
..... Date ..... Site ..... Time
2 ....... Today ... Chicago ... 3:07
3 ...... Friday ... Toronto ... 8:12
4 ..... Saturday .. Toronto ... 8:12
5* ..... Sunday ... Toronto ... 4:10
6* ..... Tuesday .. Chicago ... 8:12
7* ..... Oct. 13 .. Chicago ... 8:12
TV: All games on chs. 11, 9
Gm. .... Date ..... Site ..... Time
1 ...... Oct. 16 .... at AL .... 8:29
2 ...... Oct. 17 .... at AL .... 8:29
3 ...... Oct. 19 .... at NL .... 8:12
4 ...... Oct. 20 .... at NL .... 8:12
5* ..... Oct. 21 .... at NL .... 8:12
6* ..... Oct. 23 .... at AL .... 8:12
6* 7* ..... Oct. 24 .... at AL .... 8:29
TV: All games on chs. 11, 9