Although the New York Yankees are making a belated run at them, the Toronto Blue Jays seem to be getting better as they draw close to their first title in the American League East.
With the Yankees winning a doubleheader Sunday, the Blue Jays lost ground, but by completing a sweep of their three-game series at Milwaukee, they reduced their magic number to three.
They could clinch before they finish the season at home by playing the Yankees three times.
The Blue Jays registered season highs in hits (22) and runs as they trounced the Brewers, 13-5, and made a believer of Milwaukee Manager George Bamberger.
Tony Fernandez led the Toronto assault, getting four hits, scoring three runs and driving in four. Lloyd Moseby had three hits, including his 17th home run and drove in three runs.
Once again, the Toronto bullpen came through. A six-run first, in which Fernandez had two hits, got Steve Davis a whopping working margin and he couldn't hold it. Jim Acker went 4 innings to improve his record to 7-2.
"They just worked us over," Bamberger told the Associated Press. "I'd pick Toronto to go all the way. They're the best in baseball."
The bullpen is especially potent. In their final drive to the pennant, the Blue Jays are 7-3. The bullpen has won three and saved the other four.
Over the season, the five-man relief crew of Bill Caudill, Tom Henke, Gary Lavelle, Dennis Lamp and Acker has been most productive. They have accumulated 30 victories and 47 saves. While some of the wins and saves have overlapped, it's an awesome achievement. It is especially impressive becuase Caudill, supposedly the best of the group, has had a poor season (4-6 with 14 saves).
"We tend to take these guys for granted but they have been outstanding," Manager Bobby Cox said.
Caudill has been getting some advice from former major league pitcher Gaylord Perry.
According to Caudill, Perry "saw a couple things. I wasn't getting any drive to my pitches, and I was losing velocity. He changed my leg lift and the position of my hands," Caudill said. "I felt real comfortable. I kept everything down. I felt real free. He's a great guy."
Cox also liked what he saw: "He was throwing strikes. He kept the ball down pretty good."
New York 4-9, Baltimore 0-2--Manager Earl Weaver of the Orioles was smart. He got himself kicked out in the first game of the doubleheader at New York and again before the second game even started.
With Don Mattingly, Dave Winfield and Don Baylor providing the power and Joe Cowley and Rich Bordi the pitching, the Yankees pulled to within 5 1/2 games of Toronto.
Don Mattingly hit two home runs in the opener and Winfield and Baylor each hit a two-run homer in the nightcap.
Mattingly has 32 home runs, has driven in 140 runs and has 201 hits. Not since Joe DiMaggio (1936-37) has any Yankee had back-to-back 200-hit seasons.
"We're making them go out and keep winning but you'd like to see a loss up there," Mattingly said. "It's tough to stay positive when you know you need luck."
Minnesota 6, Kansas City 3--The Royals' slump is so bad they went into Minneapolis, didn't face either Bert Blyleven or Mike Smithson, the Twins' two best pitchers, and still scored only seven runs in three games.
The three-game sweep put them one game back of the Angels and the teams begin a four-game series tonight.
One good sign was George Brett. The Royals' leader had two hits, including a double and drove in two runs, after going 0-for-8 in the first two games.
"I think we'll straighten out tomorrow night," Manager Dick Howser said. "We've played well against California all year. All we need is a few hits. We need to win one in a row."
The game turned on an unusual play in the fifth inning after Brett had given the Royals a 3-2 lead. With Greg Gagne on second and one out, Kirby Puckett beat out a hit to short. Shortstop Buddy Biancalana trapped Gagne off third, but in the rundown, third base was left open and Gagne, instead of being the second out, was safe. Kent Hrbek singled in two runs and the Royals were losers.
Boston 8, Detroit 4--Batting champion Wade Boggs (.372) had four hits at Detroit to raise his season's total to 233. Rookie Rob Woodward won his first start.