TORONTO, SEPT. 16 -- The Toronto Blue Jays once went five years without getting a victory from a left-handed starting pitcher. Now, they have arguably the best in the American League, another indication of how this 11-year-old franchise has grown up.

Jimmy Key has been just about perfect the last two months, and he was again tonight as the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Baltimore Orioles, 7-0, before 29,353.

The home victory gives the Blue Jays an 88-57 record and a half-game lead over Detroit in the American League East.

The lone negative note for Toronto tonight was that umpires confiscated shortstop Tony Fernandez's bat after he flied out in the fourth inning. If the bat is found to be corked, he could be suspended for 10 days, which would be a devastating blow.

Otherwise, the Blue Jays finished a three-game sweep as Key pitched seven scoreless innings to extend his post-all-star-break record to 8-0, a run that has put him in solid contention for the AL Cy Young Award. His 17 victories are third behind the 19 by Oakland's Dave Stewart and the 18 by Detroit's Jack Morris, and his 2.77 ERA is second to no one.

The Blue Jays collected 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings off Orioles starter Mike Boddicker (10-9). They got three hits apiece from Fernandez and rookie second baseman Nelson Liriano. Fernandez also had three RBI.

For the Orioles (62-83), the news was again bad. They lost their ninth consecutive game, and this was the 13th time they've been swept in a series of three games or more.

Opponents have scored first in 16 straight games, and did so again tonight as Lloyd Moseby drew a first-inning walk and eventually scored on George Bell's fielder's-choice grounder.

The Blue Jays then broke the game open with Moseby and Fernandez driving in runs in the second, Moseby driving in another in the fourth and Fernandez getting two more RBI in the sixth.