"It reminded me of last year, seeing the outfielders in and the ball going over his head," Atlanta's Steve Avery said afterward, referring to Game 7 in 1991, when Gene Larkin of the Twins drove in the Series-ending run with a ball sent over the head of Brave leftfielder Brian Hunter. "I'm just glad we've got a couple more games left this time."
Alas, the Braves had one fewer after their 2-1 loss in Game 4. Toronto got its first run on a solo homer by catcher Pat Borders, who would finish the World Series with a 14-game postseason hitting streak and the Series MVP trophy. The Jays' second run was scored spectacularly by Gruber, who slid home headfirst in the seventh inning, banging his Dudley Do-right chin so hard in the batter's box that the on-deck Alomar said the impact sounded like a punch being landed. Knocked loopy, Gruber remained prone in the dirt beyond the plate for several seconds, like a ship run aground on a sandbar. He said later he didn't even remember scoring the run.
The one run that Atlanta punched across in this game would have been meaningless except that there were few acts in this Series that were not somehow significant. So when Atlanta's Ron Gant did cross the plate in the eighth, manager Cox couldn't help but think immediately, "If we'd got that [in Game 7] in Minnesota, we'd have won the World Series."
"All four of these games could have gone either way," said Toronto starter Jimmy Key, a nine-year veteran of both the Blow and the Blue Jays, who was masterly in Game 4, his only start of the postseason. "And we won three of them. Maybe we're lucky."
Maybe, baby. In fact, after the game Winfield put to verse what was now on every mind in Toronto, with the Jays leading the Series three games to one: "Anticipatin' celebratin'," he said. The Jays were confident enough of a world championship win at home in Game 5 last Thursday night that details of a victory parade scheduled for Friday were announced on the radio Thursday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Justice had awakened that morning for his regular gig on an Atlanta radio station. "It looked like guys just showed up for a game," he said—on the air—of his teammates' performance the previous night. "A spring training game."
Cox promptly described Justice's comment as "a crock." Indeed, Justice was hitting only .167 for the World Series when he ran his mouth, but this turned out to be a case of Justice delayed, not Justice denied: In the fourth inning of Game 5 he drove a Jack Morris fastball off the bunting on the second deck in rightfield to give the Braves a 2-1 lead.
The fact that it was Morris on the mound was yet another reminder of last October, when the 88th World Series created tragic and heroic figures of operatic dimensions: Morris, then of the Twins, threw 10 shutout innings to beat Atlanta 1-0 in Game 7, the Braves having been deprived of a run in the top of the eighth when Lonnie Smith was decoyed into dallying on the base paths. It is a measure of baseball's infinite richness, then, that the principal players in last year's drama would switch roles in this year's Game 5. With two outs and two strikes and the Braves leading 3-2, Smith stroked a truly grand slam off Morris into a jubilant Atlanta bullpen.
Following the Braves' 7-2 win, even the morose Morris was moved by the unlikelihood of the moment he had just shared with Smith. "It's a great game," Black Jack said in the home clubhouse at the SkyDome. "A fabulous game. I've been on the other side of it. One pitch, just misses, pop-up, hero. This time: One pitch, just misses, home run...."
Meanwhile, Smith, the man who has appeared in more postseason games than all but four players in major league history, was still feeling the pain of last October's Game 7. "I don't think I will ever get retribution for that game," he said following Thursday's slam. "Some individuals feel it is one of the greatest blunders in World Series history."