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American League Roundup : Barfield Has the Blue Jays Back in Contention

July 24, 1986|DAN HAFNER

Seven weeks into the season the Toronto Blue Jays were almost out of contention. They were in last place in the East and, in just 46 games, were 11 games behind.

As the Boston Red Sox come crashing back to the pack, the defending champions of the division suddenly find themselves in the pennant race.

Jesse Barfield, a six-year veteran at 26, is leading the Blue Jays' surge. Barfield hit a two-run home run Wednesday at Seattle to pace the Blue Jays to a 6-2 victory and put them just 6 1/2 games out of first place. They haven't been that close since May 12.

Barfield, with four home runs in his last three games at the Kingdome, has taken over the major league lead with 25. He is also moving up in the RBI race with 72.

Another who has played a part in the Blue Jays' turnaround is pitcher Jim Clancy. Clancy improved his record to 11-5 despite giving up a two-run home run to Ken Phelps in the first inning.

He needed help in the eighth and got it, surprisingly, from Dave Stieb. Stieb, the league ERA champion last season, has been a major disappointment, with a 2-10 record and an earned-run average of 5.78. But he pitched 1 innings of hitless ball to earn the save.

Most of the season, rookies Wally Joyner of the Angels and Jose Canseco of the A's have led the home-run battle.

"I'm striking a blow for the veterans," said Barfield, who is two years older than Joyner and four years older than Canseco. "I can't let the rookies steal all the limelight."

Barfield is one of the few Blue Jays having a banner year. He reached career highs last season with 27 home runs and 84 RBIs. With 65 games remaining, he figures to improve in both departments.

Oakland 9, Boston 2--The top three batters in the A's lineup hammered the skidding Red Sox at Oakland.

The No. 3 hitter, Carney Lansford, had a pair of two-run home runs and two singles, and the top two, Tony Phillips and Dwayne Murphy, each had three hits.

Former Dodger Dave Stewart (3-0) breezed behind the 10 hits from the top three, and the A's swept the three-game series with the Red Sox, who lead the East by only three games.

When Oil Can Boyd threw his tantrum and jumped the club 10 days ago, the Red Sox had an eight-game lead and appeared to be breezing. Now, they are in deep trouble and several teams are ready to challenge.

The A's, who have won four in a row and eight out of nine, also learned that bullpen ace Jay Howell is back. Howell, in his first appearance since going on the disabled list May 26, pitched a scoreless ninth.

New York 3, Texas 2--While making a run at the Red Sox, the Yankees are dealing a severe blow to the pennant hopes of the Rangers.

In this game at New York, Ron Hassey, probably the slowest Yankee, hustled down the line to beat out an infield hit with the bases loaded and two out in the 10th to hand the Rangers their seventh consecutive defeat.

The Yankees, who swept the three-game series, have won nine out of 12.

Hassey hit the grounder to first baseman Pete O'Brien. When relief pitcher Mitch Williams was late covering first, O'Brien tried to beat Hassey. Umpire Rich Garcia ruled that Hassey's slide beat O'Brien to the bag.

Don Mattingly hit a two-run homer for the Yankees in the third. Scott Fletcher, hitting safely in his 19th game in a row, started the tying rally for the Rangers with a single to open the sixth.

Detroit 12, Minnesota 2--Although his string of scoreless innings ended at 32 because of two errors in the first inning at Detroit, Jack Morris pitched another strong game.

Morris, coming off three consecutive shutouts, held the Twins to four hits and the unearned run in eight innings to improve his record to 11-6. He has given up only one earned run in his last 49 innings.

The Tigers turned the game into a rout in the sixth when Johnny Grubb hit a pinch grand slam. Grubb has three home runs in his last four at-bats.

Cleveland 7, Chicago 2--Ken Schrom pitched a five-hitter at Cleveland to win his eighth in a row, improve his record to 11-2 and move the Indians within five games of first place in the East.

Schrom, who has not lost since May 25, has the longest winning streak for a Cleveland pitcher since Fritz Peterson won 10 in a row in 1975.

Brook Jacoby had a two-run single to key a four-run second inning that enabled the Indians to win for the fifth time in six games.

Kansas City 7, Baltimore 3--Steve Balboni and Willie Wilson drove in two runs each in a four-run second inning at Baltimore and the Royals turned in three double plays in the first four innings.

The Orioles, seven games behind in the East, have hit into a league-leading 98 double plays.

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