The Blue Jays did save some good pitching for the Red Sox last weekend. But they also took a few pages out of their own book of blunders. The Jays rode the arms of Dave Stieb and Henke to a 4-3 victory in the opener but had to survive two misplays by leftfielder George Bell. In the third, Bell lost Jody Reed's fly ball in the lights and it fell for a double, and in the eighth, he let a fly ball by Ellis Burks drop at his feet. Stieb was visibly annoyed at Bell, but the important thing was that the Jays won, right?
Wrong. Bell compounded his misplays by talking about them. "A $300 million ballpark and it's got the worst lights in the league." said Bell. As for the fans who had booed him, he said, " Toronto fans should be happy they've got a $2 million-a-year player who goes out there and plays every day. Oakland's got a $25 million guy who can't play every day like I can.... They would have only been happy if the ball hit me in the face."
Still, first-place hopes were running high in the SkyDome for the series' second game. But through eight innings, Toronto starter Jimmy Key was matched goose egg for goose egg by Kiecker. After Boston scored twice in the ninth to take a 2-0 lead, Gray retired the Jays in order, two on strikeouts, for his fifth save of the year. The win was typical of the Red Sox season, what with a tiny bit of offense and big performances by two surprising pitchers. Kiecker, born in Sleepy Eye, Minn., the son of a soybean and hog farmer, is a 29-year-old rookie who finally caught Boston's sleepy eye this spring. Gray was released by the Phillies in April and picked up by the Red Sox. A forkballer with only a medium-rare fastball, Gray does not lack for confidence. Asked what he would have said if someone had told him last spring he would be the Red Sox stopper, Gray said, "Great. Let's go."
As good as the second game was, Game 3—Clemens versus David Wells-was better. The tone was set early when Bell took himself out of the game after three pitches from Clemens because he was having trouble focusing his right eye. Gray later said Bell might have had an attack of "Clemenitis." The game came into focus quickly, though, and neither pitcher blinked for the first six innings. In the seventh, Wells threw Evans a low breaking ball, a good pitch, and Evans knocked it over the fence in left. Troubled by back problems, Evans had hit only 11 homers all season, but eight of them had either tied the score or put the Red Sox ahead. So if this game was a whodunit, you could have predicted Dewey dunit.
In the meantime, Clemens, now 19-5 with a 1.95 ERA, gave one of the finest performances of his career, even if it goes down in the books as a mere five-hit shutout. His infielders made three egregious errors, which meant he had to get 30 outs to win the game. In the sixth, seventh and eighth the Blue Jays had a runner on third and left him stranded. "You could see the look in Roger's eye," said Evans. "It was a nasty, Bob Gibson look."
Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the ninth, the Jays loaded the bases with one out. Clemens got Greg Myers to lift a fly to short rightfield, leaving it up to Manny Lee. On a 1-2 pitch Clemens threw a slider in the dirt—just as Pena had ordered—and Lee swung at it. This, mind you, was with the tying run on third base.
After the game the Red Sox gave a clinic on team unity. "I can't say enough about Roger," said Evans. "Whatever it takes to win, he docs it."
"I can't say enough about Dewey," said Clemens. "He always rises to the occasion." Asked about the errors, Clemens said, "I was thrilled to be able to pick those guys up. They've saved me so many times before. I knew if we lost, they would be the focus of the game, and I didn't want that to happen."
On Sunday, Bell showed up in the Jays' clubhouse wearing glasses, much to the delight of his teammates. He was not suffering from Clemenitis, as it turned out, but from a buildup of fluid behind his right retina. When asked about his eye, Bell, who had obviously read the Toronto papers, said, "Why don't you ask Jeff Gray? He's been in the league a long time." That wasn't all Bell said. "The Red Sox are talking like they've won this thing. I guarantee you we finish two or three games ahead of them."
Bell was not in the lineup, and his wasn't the only bat missing. For the third straight game, both starters—Harris for Boston, Todd Stottlemyre for Toronto—became locked in a duel. It wasn't until the top of the eighth that a run scored—with the aid of another Blue Jay bungle. Tom Brunansky walked, moved up to second when Stottlemyre threw a pitchout past the catcher, Myers, and scored on Reed's two-out single.