TORONTO, AUG. 23 -- Remember 1986? It was Mookie Wilson who rapped the ground ball that went through Bill Buckner's legs and gave the New York Mets the life they needed to beat the Boston Red Sox in the World Series.

Although Wilson has changed leagues, he continues to bedevil the Red Sox. Tonight he had three hits, drove in one run and scored two others, including the ninth-inning winner, as the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Red Sox, 4-3, and reduced their American League East lead to one game.

"This was a big, big win for us and Mookie just had a great game," said Manager Cito Gaston. "He's been playing great, he plays hard every night and he's a great guy to manage."

Wilson, a switch hitter, entered the opener of this critical four-game series batting 46 points higher left-handed than right. Yet all three of his hits came while batting from the right side.

With one out in the bottom of the ninth and the score tied, 3-3, Wilson lined a single to right against Joe Hesketh, a retread lefty released earlier this season by Montreal and Atlanta.

When Hesketh (0-1) tried to pick Wilson off, the throw eluded first baseman Carlos Quintana and Wilson was able to race to third.

"I've played against Joe Hesketh and {Boston Manager} Joe Morgan and I knew he'd throw over," Wilson said.

"The ball was behind me, I got between the ball and the first baseman and the result was I was on third base."

Morgan ordered Tony Fernandez walked, then brought in right-hander Jeff Gray to face Kelly Gruber. Wilson broke for the plate as Gruber sent a broken-bat bouncer to third baseman Wade Boggs and slid in under Boggs's throw with the game-winner.

"I got a great jump," Wilson said. "As soon as the ball was hit, I was running, because you can't let a team turn a double play.

"He had a shot at me, but I knew the ball was rolling close to the line and I wanted to stay as close to the line as possible, to make him throw it around me."

"Nobody else could have scored on that play," said Boggs, shaking his head in disgust.

A crowd of 49,918, largest ever to see a regular season game here, welcomed the Blue Jays back from New York, where they were swept by the Yankees and fell out of a first-place tie. There were boos tonight, especially when left fielder George Bell lost two balls in the lights of the temporarily domeless SkyDome, but in the end pennant fever accompanied the fans to the exits.

A marvelous pitching duel between Toronto ace Dave Stieb, withheld from the disastrous New York series for this occasion, and Boston lefty Tom Bolton, a success story after 10 years in the minors, suddenly blew up in the bottom of the seventh.

The Blue Jays scored two runs for a 3-1 lead and were deprived of another when a long drive bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double.

Pat Borders began the rally with an infield single that was compounded by shortstop Luis Rivera's off-balance, one-hop throw into the stands. Pinch hitter John Olerud walked before Manny Lee bunted into a force at third. Kenny Williams flied out and up came Wilson. He fouled off four two-strike pitches before depositing an outside pitch in right field for an RBI single.

"I could say that was a good job of hitting, but that would be a lie," Wilson said. "I'm a hacker and I'm not going to kid anybody. That wasn't a good pitch I hit. It was definitely a ball."

Fernandez followed with a long drive to left center that bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double, Lee scoring but Wilson being forced to stop at third.

That became significant very quickly. The first Boston batter in the eighth inning, Ellis Burks, sent an apparent routine fly to left. But Bell, who had lost a Jody Reed fly ball earlier for a double, was slow to come in and allowed the ball to fall in front of him for a single.

At that point, Gaston came out and replaced Stieb with Tom Henke (1-2), despite Stieb's obvious anger and numerous shouts from the crowd to remove Bell instead.

Mike Greenwell proceeded to drive Henke's first pitch over the fence in right center, tying the game at 3.

"When that ball went out, I thought back to the bottom of the seventh," Wilson said. "If the ball had not bounced over the wall, I'd have scored easy. But it's our ballpark. You can't tear it up."

Bell had a lot to say about the ballpark, especially the way the angle of the lights affects the left fielder.

"I say last year to the front-office people, 'Somebody's going to get hurt,' " Bell said. "Maybe I'm a bad outfielder, but I'm not going to get hit anymore. I come out full speed, but I have to stop because I don't want to get hit.

"I stop 15 or 20 seconds before the ball bounced. Is that a signal I didn't want to catch the ball? It's tough enough, but it's tougher when the fans get on you for no reason."

Wilson defended Bell, saying, "Center field is okay; there are just two bad spots. But if you play the corners in this ballpark, you're in for a treat. These lights are tough."

Of his decision to yank Stieb, Gaston said: "I was trying to get Dave through a couple of outs in that inning, but he'd thrown 113 pitches and I knew he couldn't go much farther. Dave's pitched well {16-4}, but he's lost some time pitching on the side, because he's been a little sore."

Just as the Blue Jays held Stieb back a day, so the Red Sox will wait an extra day with ace Roger Clemens, now set for Saturday. Boston will send Dana Kiecker against Jimmy Key Friday night as the Blue Jays bid for a first-place tie.

Baltimore is 7 1/2 games out of first place; Detroit and Cleveland are tied for fourth, nine games out.