It may be that in his desperate effort to overhaul the Toronto Blue Jays, Manager Billy Martin has worn out his bullpen.
For the third time this week, Dave Righetti, the ace of the New York Yankees' relief corps, faltered Saturday night.
Righetti came in with one out, a runner on and the score tied, 2-2, in the sixth inning at New York. He faced four batters, didn't get one out, and the Blue Jays scored five runs. The Blue Jays went on to post a 7-4 victory and increase their lead in the American League East to 3 1/2 games.
Left-hander Jimmy Key (13-6), who has developed into one of the Blue Jays' most dependable starters, went the distance for only the third time this season. He gave up six hits, including Rickey Henderson's 21st home run.
Undoubtedly, the Blue Jays went into New York hoping for a split. Their ace, Dave Stieb, lost the opener, blowing a 4-1 lead, but the Blue Jays have fought back to win two and have assured themselves of at least a split.
Righetti is generally regarded as the best pitcher on the Yankee staff. Most of the year, he has been brilliant. But Monday at Milwaukee, Righetti gave up the tying run in the eighth. He wound up the winner when the Yankees scored five times in the 10th.
Wednesday night at Milwaukee, he came in with the score tied in the ninth and gave up the game-winning hit to Cecil Cooper.
In this game, Righetti replaced Rich Bordi after Garth Iorg blooped a single with one out. He was brought in because Toronto's next two hitters were left-handed. Righetti walked the first one, Ernie Whitt, on four pitches. Then, Rance Mulliniks, who rarely faces left-handers, doubled over left fielder Billy Sample's head to break the tie. Tony Fernandez loaded the bases with an infield hit. Lloyd Moseby, another left-handed hitter, singled home two more runs, and that was all for Righetti.
Cliff Johnson greeted reliever Brian Fisher with another two-run single.
Key, the No. 5 starter when the season opened, has recently been one of the Blue Jays' most dependable starters, winning three in a row.
"I was pumped up," he said. "Every game is a big one now, and there's no reason to hold back. I had control problems at the start, but I felt strong all the way."
The Blue Jays will send Doyle Alexander (15-8), their top winner, out to try and give them a 4 1/2-game lead today.
Detroit 10-4, Baltimore 3-5--These two teams, the last two World Series winners, took turns giving away a game at Detroit. Three errors set up five unearned runs for the Tigers in the opener, and in the second game, three errors gave Baltimore three unearned runs.
Boston 10, Milwaukee 8--Dwight Evans hit his 23rd home run with a man on in the 11th at Milwaukee to give the Red Sox the victory.
Cleveland 11-3, Minnesota 9-5--After the Indians pounded out 13 hits and the Twins contributed five errors in the opener at Cleveland, the Twins broke a 3-3 tie with two in the ninth to earn a split.