The Toronto Blue Jays became the first American League East champion to repeat in more than a decade Saturday, but they probably won't shed their reputation as postseason losers until they win a World Series.
"You definitely get tired of hearing about it," Joe Carter said after a 3-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers in the SkyDome. "I wasn't here in 1987. I wasn't here in 1985. I wasn't here in 1989. They dwell too much on the negative and don't talk much about the positive."
The Blue Jays are the only team in baseball with 10 consecutive winning seasons. Since 1987, they have played at a .640 clip in games in September and October. But they are still trying to become the first team to bring a World Series to Canada. A recap:
--1985. The Blue Jays led Kansas City, 3-1, in the playoffs but lost the last three games.
--1987. Toronto lost its final seven games of the season and lost the AL East title to the Detroit Tigers.
--1989. The Blue Jays won a stretch duel with Baltimore but were swept in the playoffs by Oakland.
--1990. Toronto led Boston by 1 1/2 games with seven games to play but could not hold on.
--1991. The Blue Jays won their third AL East crown but again collapsed in the playoffs as Jack Morris, now Toronto's best starter, won twice during Minnesota's five-game rout.
This season, the Blue Jays said it would be different. During spring training, with a lineup that added Morris and Dave Winfield as free agents, Kelly Gruber boasted that Toronto would win the division by 15 games.
It wasn't that easy, and the Blue Jays didn't finish off Milwaukee until the final weekend, becoming the AL East's first repeat winner since the 1980-81 New York Yankees.
"It's quite clear, almost black and white, what they expect of you," Morris said. "Some people can't handle that kind of pressure, can't deal with the responsibility that's put on your shoulders. But I never think about it too much in terms of pressure."
Winfield brought the Blue Jays things they had been missing on and off the field, becoming the first 40-year-old to reach 100 runs batted in and serving as judge of the team's resurrected Kangaroo Court.
"I'm not just an old codger who can't produce," Winfield said.
Saturday, Juan Guzman (16-5) gave up only Mark Carreon's leadoff single in the sixth inning, Carter hit his 34th home run and Winfield celebrated his 41st birthday with a run-scoring grounder for his 108th RBI.
Detroit loaded the bases against Tom Henke with one out in the ninth on two singles and walk. After Rob Deer popped up, Henke forced in a run by walking Scott Livingstone, and Duane Ward came in to pitch. Ward got Dan Gladden on a popup for his 12th save.
The Blue Jays will begin the AL playoffs on Wednesday night at the SkyDome against Oakland, with Morris expected to face Dave Stewart. Toronto and the A's split 12 games this season.
Guzman had averaged only five innings with a 4.65 earned-run average in six starts since returning from the disabled list and had lost consecutive decisions for only the second time in his career.
But against Detroit, he struck out nine and walked three. He had struck out only seven in his previous four starts combined.
"If I didn't pitch good today and they put me in the bullpen, I'd agree with them," Guzman said. "I don't want to blow it."
Earlier this week, Pat Gillick, Toronto's general manager, said Morris, David Cone and Jimmy Key probably would be the team's three-man rotation for the playoffs. Gaston, however, said Saturday that Guzman might earn a spot with a strong showing in his final regular-season start.
The Brewers' playoff hopes ended during their eighth inning in Oakland when Toronto won. The Athletics went on to beat Milwaukee, 10-3.
"This month was like an extended playoff with the Blue Jays," Milwaukee's Paul Molitor said. "Getting there and not winning is hard, but this was a tremendous last 35 ballgames."