Doyle Alexander, the new ace of the staff, pitched seven strong innings Sunday at New York and the surprising Toronto Blue Jays outlasted the Yankees, 8-5, for their third win in a row to build their lead in the East to 4 1/2 games.
Alexander held the Yankees to three hits in seven innings and departed with one out in the eighth after giving up two more hits. The Yankees made it look close when Ken Griffey hit a two-run homer in the ninth, but the Blue Jays seem to have taken command of the race.
The game and possibly the race was decided in the third inning when the Blue Jays knocked out Ed Whitson (10-8) with four consecutive hits and went on to score six runs.
Pinch-hitter Cliff Johnson singled in two of the runs and singled in another in the seventh when the Blue Jays built the lead to 8-0.
With 19 games left, including 11 at home where they are 49-21, the Blue Jays, who saw their lead cut to 1 1/2 games when they lost the opener of the four-game series, are in good shape now.
"This was a big game," Manager Bobby Cox told the Associated Press. "It means we're 4 1/2, not 2 1/2. But, it's not over, yet.
"Doyle's performance shouldn't surprise you, he's been outstanding for us."
Before the season began, the Blue Jays were basing their pennant hopes on three strong, young pitchers, Dave Stieb, Jim Clancy and Luis Leal. Alexander, although he was 17-6 last season, was rated the No. 4 starter.
Stieb has had problems with control, Clancy has spent half the season on the disabled list and Leal pitched so poorly he went back to the minors. Alexander became the ace.
His fourth consecutive victory gave him a 16-8 record, the winningest pitcher on the staff. It has been said the 35-year-old right-hander, who broke into the majors with the Dodgers in 1971, never won a big game. It is no longer true.
Maybe, it never was. Alexander, since joining the Blue Jays in 1983, 20 days after the Yankees released him, is 14-1 in decisions after Aug. 31.
Yankee Manager Billy Martin has cast doubts on Alexander's courage and twice gotten rid of the pitcher. Ironically, according to Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post, the Yankees are paying all but $60,000 of Alexander's $800,000 contract and will do so next year, too.
Alexander went into a slump in mid-August, losing twice and failing to win in another start and the Blue Jays' lead fell from seven games to three. But, beginning with a win over Minnesota Aug. 26, Alexander has pitched like a No. 1 starter.
He has made five starts, all Toronto victories, has pitched 38 innings, given up 28 hits and only six runs for an ERA of 1.39. That's pennant-winning pitching.
Oakland 4-2, Kansas City 2-7--George Brett and Bud Black came out of long slumps just in time to get the Royals a split at Oakland and keep them 2 1/2 games in front of the Angels in the West.
Brett was 0-for-18 when he came to the plate with two on in the fifth inning of the second game and hammered his 25th home run, tying his career high to give the Royals a 5-1 lead.
Black (9-14) pitched a four-hitter and struck out eight to win for the first time since Aug. 9.
Frank White's career-high 20th home run gave the Royals a 2-1 lead in the fourth.
In the opener, Mike Heath hit a three-run home run to climax a four-run fourth inning that led to the A's victory. A two-out throwing error by pitcher Charlie Leibrandt (15-8) preceding the home run made all four runs unearned.
Steve Balboni drove in both Royals' runs in the first game, one of them with his career-high 32nd home run.
Chicago 6, Seattle 3--Carlton Fisk had three hits and drove in two runs at Seattle. The White Sox catcher has driven in 96 runs this season.
Detroit 4, Baltimore 1--Usually reliable shortstop Cal Ripken made a two-out wild throw that triggered a three-run rally in the eighth at Detroit that gave the Tigers the victory.
Minnesota 5, Cleveland 2--In his first appearance against his old mates since the Indians traded him to the Twins, Bert Blyleven improved his record to 14-15. He needed help in the ninth and failed to get his 21st complete game.
Boston 4, Milwaukee 2--Although his teammates made five errors in this game at Milwaukee, rookie Jeff Sellers made a successful major league debut. Sellers gave up eight hits and two runs, one unearned, in 6 innings.