For an hour after their victory Tuesday night, the Toronto Blue Jays felt helpless - not hopeless.
Fred McGriff's tie-breaking home run with two out in the ninth inning powered Toronto past Baltimore 2-1, sending the Blue Jays scurrying toward a television set at Memorial Stadium to root for the Chicago White Sox against Boston.When the Red Sox dropped a 3-2 decision in 11 innings, the Blue Jays pulled within one game of the American League East lead heading into the final scheduled game of the regular season. A Toronto victory over the Orioles Wednesday, coupled with another Chicago triumph at Boston, would force a one-game playoff Thursday in Toronto for the right to face West champion Oakland in the AL Championship Series.
"We are still alive," said Toronto's Kelly Gruber, the AL Player of the Month for September. "The pressure is on them."
Toronto's Dave Stieb, 18-6, duels against Baltimore's Ben McDonald, 8-5, Wednesday. At Fenway Park, the Red Sox will start 16-game winner Mike Boddicker against Chicago rookie Alex Fernandez.
"It feels like a double-header win, but that's what it will take tomorrow," said Toronto's Bud Black, who allowed just three hits in eight innings for his 13th victory. Black was traded to the Blue Jays Sept. 17 and is ineligible for the playoffs.
McGriff's towering clout, his 35th homer of the season and first since Sept. 11, dropped just behind the right-center field wall, snapping a 1-1 tie. Tom Henke retired the Orioles in the ninth inning to pick up his 32nd save.
Ozzie Guillen stroked the game-winning hit at Fenway after the Red Sox left the bases loaded in the 10th. Ron Karkovice hit a one-out single in the 11th and moved to second on Robin Ventura's single. Scott Fletcher popped out, but Guillen lined a single to right off Dennis Lamp to frustrate a crowd of 33,917 which anticipated a division-clinching triumph.
"I said it would go down to the bitter end, didn't I?" said Boston Manager Joe Morgan. "I hope I'm wrong. The bitter end would be the playoffs."