TORONTO, SEPT. 15 -- The Toronto Blue Jays put tickets for the American League Championship Series on sale this weekend. Then they took a few significant steps toward making that a worthwhile endeavor.

In a 17-hour span, they twice rallied for three runs in the ninth inning to beat the Baltimore Orioles. Today, Kelly Gruber did it with a three-run home run off Curt Schilling for a 4-3 victory before 49,888 at the SkyDome.

Toronto (78-68) won for the eighth time in 10 games to pull within 2 1/2 games of first-place Boston in the AL East. The Blue Jays seemed dead just three weeks ago, but today they looked like a club that may be on its way to equaling the best September comeback -- 6 1/2 games -- since divisional play began in 1969.

"It's hard not to feel like we're going to do it when something happens like these last two days," said Gruber, who singled in the three-run ninth that beat relief ace Gregg Olson Friday. The third baseman has led the Blue Jays with 16 RBI in the past seven games.

This was a day that had a little bit of everything. There was Baltimore starter Pete Harnisch reversing a recent slide to duel his counterpart, David Wells, for a 2-1 lead into the ninth -- then conceding afterward that his 181 2/3-inning workload has robbed his pitches of their velocity.

There was Bill and Cal Ripken becoming the fifth brother combination in major league history to hit homers in the same inning. Both connected off Wells in the fifth to offset Mookie Wilson's third-inning RBI single and provide the Orioles (65-79) the one-run cushion they took into the ninth. Cal Ripken's home run was the 214th of his career as a shortstop, surpassing Vern Stephens for the AL record.

And there was the game's most discussed and debated play, a call by third base umpire John Shulock that touched off waves of protest by the Orioles and a postgame controversy between Shulock and Baltimore Manager Frank Robinson.

Wilson began Toronto's winning rally with a single to center field, then made a highly questionable decision by trying for third base when Tony Fernandez grounded a single to right. Jeff McKnight, who moved from first base to right in the ninth inning, made a strong, one-hop throw that arrived ahead of Wilson's dive.

Shulock also made a decision Friday that the Orioles debated, ruling a borderline 3-2 pitch from Olson in the ninth a ball. This time he called Wilson safe. He said later that Wilson's "hand was on the bag when the tag was made." But Baltimore third baseman Craig Worthington, who rarely argues, exploded.

Robinson arrived on the scene after Worthington and Shulock had been separated by Harnisch. After the game, Robinson objected to what he said was abusive language used by Shulock to and about Worthington during the fracas.

"I don't think an umpire has the right to talk to a ballplayer like he did to Worthy and like he talked to me about Worthy when I got out there," Robinson said. "If a player or manager used one of those words he used, we'd be thrown out.

"If we kept it up, we'd be suspended for two or three days. We don't have that right, and I don't think an umpire has that right."

Shulock denied Robinson's allegations. "I did not cuss either {Worthington} or Robinson," he said. "I don't know where he got that." Crew chief Don Denkinger said, "There was swearing, but it was not directed at anybody."

There was plenty of revisionist history in the postgame locker rooms. Harnisch -- who had yielded 11 earned runs in 11 1/3 innings over his previous two starts and has one win in his last 10 outings -- said he thought Wilson was out. Worthington refused to comment.

Wilson and Blue Jays Manager Cito Gaston said Toronto's scouting report said to run on McKnight -- who had been in right field only twice before this year. "It was too close," Wilson said.

But nothing else mattered when Gruber yanked a high fastball.