Johnson powers White Sox, 7-4 Rare HR helps top Jays, even series

October 10, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

TORONTO -- For the fourth straight game, the home-field disadvantage prevailed in the American League Championship Series. And for the Toronto Blue Jays, the consequences could be dire.

Drawing on power from the most unexpected source in their lineup, the Chicago White Sox evened the ALCS at two games apiece last night with an impressive 7-4 victory over the Blue Jays.

Lance Johnson, one of the so-called "fleas" in the White Sox's lineup, devastated the Blue Jays with a shocking power display. The little center fielder unloaded a two-run homer in the second inning and a decisive two-run triple in the sixth as the White Sox won their second in a row at SkyDome.

The victory put the White Sox in position to make ALCS history. No team has ever lost the first two games at home and gone on to win the pennant, but the White Sox are two victories away.

Hampered by missed opportunities and defensive lapse while losing Games 1 and 2 at home, the White Sox have seen the roles reversed dramatically. Last night it was the Blue Jays who left runners on base in all but the last inning (11 overall), and the White Sox who made the big defensive play.

Todd Stottlemyre, who allowed the home runs to Johnson and Frank Thomas, was the losing pitcher. Tim Belcher, the first of four relievers to follow starter Jason Bere, allowed one run in 3 2/3 innings for the victory.

"Before the game they told me the ball was really jumping out of here [during batting practice]," said White Sox manager Gene Lamont. "Somebody said, 'Even Lance hit a couple of out.' "

Johnson did not hit a home run in 540 at-bats during the regular season and had only four in 2,612 previous career at-bats.

"I think the law of averages came out tonight," said Johnson. "I hadn't had much success against him [Stottlemyre]."

Going into the game, Johnson had a career .100 average (3-for-30) against Stottlemyre and had been hitless in seven at-bats this year. But, as shocking as the home run was, it was the triple that might have damaged the Blue Jays the most.

The triple, like the home run, came on the first pitch and went over the head of Devon White, the league's best center fielder. Although the ball was well-hit, it appeared White had tracked it down.

But, as he glided onto the warning track, still one step away from the fence, the ball sailed over his glove. The triple enabled the White Sox to break a 3-3 tie and take a lead they never relinquished.

Although he already had homered, Johnson said he wasn't surprised he was able to hit the ball over White's head.

"Devo [White] usually plays me shallow," said Johnson, who led the league in triples the past two years. "But I can hit a high fastball pretty well."

In addition to the big hit, the White Sox also got a huge play from left fielder Tim Raines.

With the White Sox guarding a 5-4 lead in the sixth, Raines charged a single by Joe Carter and made a strong throw to the plate to keep Roberto Alomar from scoring the tying run. From that point on, the White Sox were in control.

Going in, neither team knew what to expect from the opposing pitcher. Bere, who won his last seven decisions en route to a 12-5 record, did not face the White Sox during the regular season.

Both managers seemed to think that was an edge for the rookie right-hander. "I think that kind of matchup is an advantage for the pitcher," said Lamont, "but we'll have to see how it plays out."

Toronto's Cito Gaston agreed: "As a hitter, I always felt like it was a disadvantage any time you faced somebody you hadn't seen before."

As it turned out, the White Sox got to Stottlemyre first, but Bere's advantage lasted only once through the Toronto batting order. After an eventless first inning, the White Sox got an early 2-0 cushion.

Johnson hit a two-run shot over the 375-foot sign in right-center field, scoring Ellis Burks, who had singled.

The Blue Jays got a break the next inning when Raines led off with what looked like a double into the right-field corner. When shortstop Tony Fernandez applied a late tag, he pushed Raines' foot off second base and got an out call from umpire Ken Kaiser.

Raines was enraged and had to be restrained as Lamont took up his cause with Kaiser, with the usual results. Not long after that, Bere began to unravel.

After Pat Borders hit a soft single to center, Rickey Henderson flied out, but White walked. Alomar then poked a bouncing single down the left-field line, and the Blue Jays were in motion.

White went to third on the hit, Alomar took second on the throw -- and both scored on Carter's first-pitch single to left. Then, after a mound visit from Lamont, Bere hit John Olerud with a pitch and walked Paul Molitor to load the bases.

When Bere's first pitch to Fernandez was a ball, Lamont had seen enough. Right-hander Belcher came in and, after running the count to 3-and-1, struck out Fernandez and got Ed Sprague to hit into a force to end the inning.

White Sox-Blue Jays scoring

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