The Toronto Blue Jays lost today, shrugged their shoulders and headed for home. The Kansas City Royals won, shrugged their shoulders and were thankful to be following them.
"All I want to do right now," said winning pitcher Danny Jackson, "is go home and take a nap."
Because Jackson stubbornly pitched out of trouble again and again today, he won't be able to sleep long. His 2-0, eight-hit shutout of the Blue Jays before 40,416 in Royals Stadium on a humid afternoon cut Toronto's lead in the American League Championship Series to three games to two.
Now, the teams return to Exhibition Stadium Tuesday with the Blue Jays trying, again, to clinch their first pennant while Kansas City tries to stretch the series to a decisive seventh game. Even in victory, the Royals understood that their task is formidable, especially with the last two games in Toronto.
"All this means is that we still have a chance," Manager Dick Howser said. "Before the game, we had to win three in a row. Now it's two. We've done that before. We now have a chance to do it again."
Royals second baseman Frank White said, "The situation is still desperate. We're still down to our last straw. But at least now we have them thinking."
Indeed. "If we can't win one out of two in Toronto, we don't deserve to be in the World Series," Blue Jays right fielder Jesse Barfield said. "What happened today was simple: Mr. Jackson pitched a great game. Give him the credit. We had chances but he got us out."
Jackson is a 25-year-old left-hander who had an up-and-down year that reached bottom in September when he lost five times in six starts. But in the last week of the regular season, he pitched the game against the California Angels that put the Royals in first place for good. He allowed one run in 8 2/3 innings that night. Today, he was even better.
"All I heard for the last week was what a big game this was," he said. "So, I just went out and tried to pitch like I did against the Angels. I started out well, lost some concentration for a while and had to bear down at the end. I'm glad it all worked out."
It worked out because the Royals' anemic hitters ran themselves into two runs early against Toronto left-hander Jimmy Key.
In the Royals first, Lonnie Smith, one for 13 in the series, led off with a sharp double into the left field corner. Willie Wilson came up. On a 1-1 pitch, Smith stole third. He might have been out if third baseman Garth Iorg had scrambled back to the bag in time to take the throw from catcher Ernie Whitt.
Smith's steal created a run. After Wilson struck out, George Brett (zero for four since his one-man show Friday) hit a high bouncer to shortstop Tony Fernandez. If Fernandez had played the ball flawlessly, he might have had a play at the plate. But the ball stuck in his glove for a split-second and Smith scored to make it 1-0.
"We just went out loose," Brett said. "Nobody expected us to continue the season past today. The pressure was on them. We just needed to make a couple of things happen and get Danny a couple runs. That's all we got -- a couple -- but it was enough."
The second run came in the second and, again, the element of surprise played a role. White led off. At one time, White bunted often. But the last two years, hitting in the middle of the lineup, he has swung for extra base hits.
"But I still always check third base when I come up," White said. "Most guys down there still keep me honest. But I looked down and he (Iorg) was back."
Iorg fielded his bunt cleanly but had no chance to get White, who still runs swiftly at 35. Up came Steve Balboni, one for 14 in the series, and he hit a line shot to left. White took third, barely beating George Bell's throw and getting spiked on the hand for his effort.
Balboni took second on the throw. A moment later, Darryl Motley lifted a fly to deep center and White scored.
The rest was left to Jackson.
He was severely tested in the middle three innings, but in each instance, Toronto came up empty.
In the fourth, Bell led off with a single. On Cliff Johnson's single to left, Bell challenged Smith's notoriously weak arm, but Smith threw a one-hop strike to Brett at third base.
Bell slid, Brett tagged. Umpire Dale Ford said out. Bell screamed. Manager Bobby Cox came out and screamed some more.
After the game, there was more screaming. "I thought the replays showed he was safe," Cox said. "How important was it? Well, it might have been the ball game."
Bell was far more adamant. "I was safe," he said. "I don't know what it is with the umpires. Maybe they don't like us because we're from Canada. If we were a Dominican team (Bell is from the Dominican Republic), we'd have no chance at all."
Instead of first-and-third and no out, it was man on first, one out. Jackson pitched out of it.
In the fifth, the Blue Jays had no excuses. Iorg led off with a single and Whitt doubled to the right field corner. Iorg held at third. Jackson was in deep trouble. Not for long.
Fernandez hit a weak grounder to Brett, who threw him out, runners holding. "I was trying to strike him out," Jackson said. "If I walked him, I didn't care because we'd have a force at home and that was fine. His out was a relief."
Damaso Garcia popped to White.
Lloyd Moseby, one of Saturday's heroes, grounded weakly to second for the third out. "I didn't care where he hit," Jackson said. "An out was an out. I felt great."
The Blue Jays felt awful. "He threw good pitches," Garcia said. "The fast ball he threw me, he just threw it by me."
There was one more chance in the sixth. First, Wilson made what turned out to be a crucial play when he ran down Bell's leadoff screamer to the warning track and made a backhand catch as he ran into the wall.
That catch became vital when the Blue Jays loaded the bases with two out on Barfield's single, Upshaw's single and Iorg's walk. That brought up Whitt. "He had timed an outside slider when he got the double," Jackson said. "I decided to come in on the hands with a fast ball."
He did just that and Whitt hit the first pitch on the ground to second. Another threat averted. That was the Blue Jays' last chance. Jackson got through the last three innings without a runner, retiring the last 10.
"That was impressive," Howser said. "I thought they were getting to him in the middle innings but he came back strong and finished it. We've been three outs away from winning a couple times and haven't shut them down. Today, Danny just shut them down."
So, the Royals live for at least one more plane ride, one more off-day workout and one more chance to beat the Blue Jays in Canada. Shortly after the last out this evening, Howser and Cox, former New York Yankees teammates, passed in the hall.
"See you in Toronto," Howser said.
"Yeah, right," Cox answered.
He didn't smile. Howser did -- at least for one more day.