On Tuesday Jesse Barfield, who led the league with 40 homers last year and also trails Bo Jackson in the All-Star balloting, welcomed Guidry to his first start with a first-inning, opposite-field homer. Guidry was gone after four innings of a 7-2 rout that featured not one but two Yankee manager ejections. Piniella was tossed in the fifth for arguing a call at second base, and his successor, third base coach Mike Ferraro, got the heave in the sixth. Cerutti, meanwhile, did what he had dreamed about since he was 18. While pitching for Christian Brothers Academy in Albany, N.Y., nine years ago, Cerutti had a record that paralleled Guidry's for the Yanks. When Guidry went to 13-0, Cerutti says he did too. "I always dreamed I'd face Guidry in the Stadium and beat him," said Cerutti. He imagined the final score would be 1-0, but he led 7-0 in the sixth. Naturally Williams didn't let him finish. After Cerutti gave up a two-out single and a walk, he was gone. Eichhorn, Jeff Musselman and Henke handled the closing ceremonies.
On Wednesday the Yankees went with their most reliable starter, 44-year-old Tommy John, who has been, says Piniella, "tougher than when I hit against him in the late '60s." So Jimmy Key had to pitch like an ace, and he did. When a Yankee error forced John to pitch to Bell with two on in the third inning, George cranked another three-run homer, and Key had enough for an eventual 4-1 victory. He wasn't about to finish after 7? innings with a 3-1 lead, of course. Enter Henke, he of the astounding 11 saves, 1.06 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 34 innings.
There was little Blue Jay jubilation after the series. "We've matured a lot in the two years since we first won the division," said Henke. "Then we were the 'up-and-coming Blue Jays.' We were excited and sometimes nervous and emotional. Now we know what we are and what we can do."
In addition to its power and pitching, Toronto is also bulging with speed and depth. "They can outdefense anyone in this league," says Piniella. Little Manny Lee stepped in at shortstop in the Yankee series opener when Fernandez was shaken up and made a dazzling play deep in the hole. He also cracked a 400-foot triple. But lest anyone forget who is the best shortstop in baseball, in the finale Fernandez crossed second base for a Henry Cotto ground ball, and, as he raced at full speed into right center, twisted his torso and fired a sidearm strike that, said Cerutti, "made my shoulder twinge just watching it."
"We get used to those things," said Williams. "But that doesn't mean there's anyone else on earth who could have done it, because there isn't."
So effective is Toronto's bullpen that the starters have completed only eight games. Furthermore, the Blue Jays have not lost a game in which they've led past the seventh inning and, from the eighth inning on, they've outscored the opposition 76-22. Through last week the Blue Jay relievers had averaged 3? innings per game, had a combined 2.66 ERA with 15 saves, only three blown save opportunities and a 12-5 won-lost record. "And it's going to get better now that we have Gary Lavelle back to give us two lefthanders," says Williams.
"The key is depth and contrast," says Eichhorn. And Williams mixes his relievers well. The primary lefthander is rookie Musselman (4-2, 2 saves), who has the best stuff of any Harvard-educated stockbroker. Lavelle is the middle man, along with fireballing rookie righthander Jose Nunez. Then you get the big righthanders, Eichhorn and Henke. "I come in there and throw my 72-mile-an-hour Frisbees," says Eichhorn. "So when Henke comes in, it looks like he's throwing 150 miles an hour." He's not so far off. A JUGS gun has registered Henke at 102 mph.
Eichhorn was just another minor leaguer without a future in February 1986 when the Jays invited him to spring training because they needed arms to throw batting practice. He hadn't had much success throwing over the top or submarine, so one day that spring he tried something in between—and added a little sidestep after releasing the ball, which makes him look as if he's skipping rope. Lo and behold, he went on to win 14 games, save 10 more and fashion a 1.72 ERA. "I think a lot of people thought I might be a fluke because I was so different," says Eichhorn. He is so different that he pitches nearly every day. "The way I throw, I never get tired," he says. Adds Henke, "And because we have so much depth, I never have to go more than a few outs."
But at the very heart of the Blue Jays are the three stars: Fernandez, Barfield and Bell. Fernandez's 213 hits in 1986 were the most ever by a shortstop. His hands work the bat the way Rod Carew's did, and defensively he is better than Ozzie Smith at everything except backflips. Barfield has a Gold Glove and a home run title. And this is the year that the rest of the world is finally joining the American League in learning about George Bell.
"You either love George or you hate him," says A's manager Tony LaRussa, who once managed Bell in winter ball. "He struts, he challenges and, most of all, he intimidates. But if you know him, you love him."