- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Anderson: "Thanks, I'm O.K."
White: "I'll stay right here."
Said Anderson later, "That's a tremendous young man."
Tempers cooled, Gullickson was ejected, and thanks to the near-rumble on Trumbull, Candiotti, the Toronto starter, had to wait a half hour to throw his first knuckleball. In June, Toronto traded four players to get the 33-year-old Candiotti from the lowly Cleveland Indians, a deal that, according to Anderson, "locked up the division" for the Blue Jays. However, a lack of support seems to have followed Candiotti from Cleveland. Although he entered the game with a league-leading 2.38 ERA, his record stood at 9-11. "This is the craziest year," he said on Saturday. "I don't think I can ever recall pitching this well—there are only four games I shouldn't have won out of 23 starts. I don't know. Maybe it's more important when you pitch than how you pitch."
Both mattered on Sunday, and Candiotti came through. He left after seven innings with a 4-2 lead, having allowed just three hits. "The only time I felt good against him was my third time up," said Tiger first baseman Dave Bergman, "and then I grounded into a double play."
Candiotti even weathered a second delay of the game, in the third inning, when a top-heavy blonde bounced onto the field and headed toward Blue Jay first baseman John Olerud, who promptly ran away from her. "He did a sidestep and then she couldn't get her weight shifted to follow him," said Toronto reliever Tom Henke, who fanned the side in the ninth inning to get his second save of the series and his 28th of the year.
Another jolting sight had greeted the Blue Jays on the field before Friday night's opener: umpire Joe Brinkman dusting off home plate. In his 1989 book, Catch: A Major League Life, former Toronto catcher Ernie Whitt branded Brinkman "incompetent." Since then the Jays had been 2-8 in games in which Brinkman called balls and strikes. But Toronto had nothing to complain about through seven innings on Friday. Blue Jay lefty Jimmy Key and former Toronto lefty John Cerutti pitched with symmetrical effectiveness, giving up only two runs apiece. With the league's best corps of relief arms on their side and Tiger stopper Mike Henneman suffering from soreness in his throwing shoulder, the Blue Jays seemed to hold the upper hand going into the closing innings. "You get to their bullpen, forget about it," Anderson would say later, blowing smoke while puffing on a pipe in his wood-paneled office. "You're not going to beat them there."
In the bottom of the eighth, Detroit's Milt Cuyler slapped a one-out single to left and went to second when Candy Maldonado bobbled the ball. Enter Toronto righthander Duane Ward to face switch-hitting Tony Phillips. Although Phillips has played seven positions this season, he's hardly a fill-in; his 15 homers, fifth best on Detroit, would have placed him second on the Blue Jays. Phillips's newfound pop is due in part to time he spent in the off-season working with Chicago White Sox batting coach Walt Hriniak. By streamlining Phillips's mental checklist at the plate, Hriniak helped raise Phillips's average to .302. "It's just a little bitty thing to stop me from going bad," says Phillips. "When I'm going well, I tell myself to keep my head down, and when I'm going bad, I tell myself to keep my head down. So it's real simple."
Head firmly down, Phillips ripped an RBI single to center to touch off a three-run inning. Dan Gakeler, a seven-year minor league free agent with a 7.17 major league ERA, sealed Cerutti's first win as a starter in more than a year with the first save of his career. Gakeler got Maldonado on a ground-ball double play before getting Kelly Gruber on a called third strike for the final out. Gruber stormed toward the dugout and slammed his helmet to the ground, where it rolled to Brinkman's feet. Toronto's bullpen had been trumped by a wide-eyed rookie. Was that a whiff of some spilled champagne, vintage 1987, in the Detroit air?
"I never thought I'd be in this situation," said the 27-year-old Gakeler afterward. "When I was watching John warm up before the game, Mike Henneman told me, 'If you get the chance tonight, you'd better do the job, because we want to be playing in October.' Now here I am, in the big leagues, one game out of first. What do you think of that?"