TORONTO, SEPT. 24 -- They came here hoping to sample the rock music on Yonge Street, the Chinese food on the west side and to, maybe, swing the American League East race in their favor. When Tony Fernandez's right elbow banged off a board in the artificial turf three innings into the game, the Detroit Tigers had accomplished the last objective.
Fernandez, the Toronto Blue Jays' slick young shortstop, will miss the remainder of the season after breaking his right elbow following a collision with Detroit's Bill Madlock. Fernandez underwent surgery tonight and is expected to be fully recovered by spring training.
The Blue Jays went on to beat the Tigers, 4-3, before 42,436 at Exhibition Stadium. The victory opened a 1 1/2-game Toronto lead in the AL East, but this was only the first of seven Tigers-Blue Jays games in the final 10 days of the season.
The Blue Jays will play the last six with a new No. 3 hitter in their batting order and an unproven shortstop named Manny Lee in the infield.
"I think it's going to be tough," Toronto first baseman Willie Upshaw said. "But we can't let it get us down. You can look at it two ways, and I'm hoping this will be one of those things we can rally around. We've come too far to let this thing slip away."
Fernandez's injury took the edge off what should have been a terrific night for the Blue Jays. Not only did they move a step closer to their second division championship in three years, but they did it in front of a roaring home crowd that waited through 45-minute ticket lines, many just to get a seat more than 500 feet from home plate.
Before the series, the Tigers admitted the Blue Jays' single biggest advantage was relief pitching, and that was the case tonight. Starter Mike Flanagan (3-1) allowed two earned runs in 6 2/3 innings to get the victory and lower his ERA to 2.12 since being acquired from the Baltimore Orioles.
But he left with a 4-3 lead and the tying run on second in the seventh. Left-hander David Wells, a September call-up who has become a key part of a pennant race, got him out of that inning, thanks to a leaping stop by Lee on a Larry Herndon liner.
Wells then breezed through the eighth and, in the ninth, Tom Henke blew away the Tigers for his 34th save.
"This," Flanagan said, pointing toward Henke, "is a pretty weird scenario for me. I haven't had this luxury very often in my career."
The Blue Jays beat Tigers star Jack Morris (18-10), who pitched a complete game, but struggled through it, allowing seven hits and eight walks. He gave up all four Toronto runs in one inning, the third, with a two-run single by catcher Ernie Whitt the big hit.
"He only had one bad inning," Detroit Manager Sparky Anderson said. "His control got away from him, but that inning counted, too."
Meanwhile, left fielder George Bell, the man Anderson promised to walk every time up, didn't walk once. He did, however, single three times in four at-bats.
Still, a game is a game is a game, and the games will be more difficult without Fernandez, who was hitting .322 and had been especially effective hitting in front of Bell in the third spot (.352 since Aug. 25).
The injury occurred in the top of the third after Madlock led off the inning with a single. Kirk Gibson hit a soft roller to second baseman Nelson Liriano. Fernandez took the toss from Liriano for the force on Madlock and was about three feet behind and to the right of the base when he made his throw to first.
Madlock, however, came flying down the line and rolled over into Fernandez. Fernandez was flipped into the air and his right elbow landed on a board that connects a seam in the turf.
"That was a dirty play," Liriano said. "That's all there is to say."
"It was, at best, unnecessary," Toronto's Garth Iorg said.
Toronto Manager Jimy Williams also criticized Madlock, saying, "It was a rolling block, and my understanding is if you do slide you have to be able to tag the bag with your foot or your hand. It looked impossible from where he was."
Anderson disagreed, saying, "Sure, he could touch the bag. I just saw the replay. No question about that."
Madlock left the game with a bruised chest, but is expected to be able to play Friday. He also defended his play.
"This is a big series," he said. "I'd be disappointed if they didn't do the same thing at second. That helped us score two runs, and there was nothing illegal about it. As long as you can reach the bag, you're legal. I could reach it."
Regardless, Gibson beat Fernandez's relay throw to first, and the Tigers were on their way to a 2-0 lead, scoring one run on Chet Lemon's RBI single and another on an error by Bell and a Flanagan wild pitch.
No matter. Morris' control was awful and, after leaving the bases loaded in the second, he paid for it in the third when the Blue Jays sent nine men to the plate and scored four times.
Liriano led off with an infield single and stole second. Lloyd Moseby walked. Lee, Fernandez's replacement, struck out, but Bell singled to center to load the bases.
Whitt lined a single to right-center for two runs, and Rance Mulliniks doubled to left for another. Morris wild-pitched Whitt home for a 4-2 lead.