BALTIMORE, OCT. 3 -- In a matter of a few stunning minutes, Toronto's season came to an abrupt ending tonight. First, Boston clinched the American League East title, then Baltimore's Mickey Tettleton crashed a two-out, ninth-inning home run into the right field seats for a 3-2 Orioles victory that punctuated the Blue Jays' departure into the cold offseason.
Tettleton heard boos when he was called out on strikes in his previous turn at bat. But he graciously emerged from the dugout after winning the game, waving to the suddenly forgiving and cheering Memorial Stadium crowd of 26,913. Many of the other Orioles came back onto the field to acknowledge the sustained applause for their fifth-place team.
"It was very exciting, a nice way to end the season," Tettleton said. "It was something I was thinking about as I was rounding the bases."
The Blue Jays were left in a state of high ache and mortal woe.
"It would have been nice to go back to Toronto tomorrow and see what would happen," said Blue Jays Manager Cito Gaston, who like his team had been hoping for a one-game playoff Thursday against the Red Sox. "But it wasn't to be. We'll just go home and hold our heads up."
It had been a tense night, featuring an excellent pitching duel between Baltimore's Ben McDonald and Toronto's Dave Stieb. What's more, it looked as if Toronto would repeat its 2-1 victory of Tuesday night when John Olerud spoiled McDonald's shutout and stopped his string of scoreless innings at 23 with a two-run homer in the eighth.
But the tenacious Stieb tired in the eighth when the Orioles scratched out a tying run on two singles, a hit batsman and a sacrifice fly to set up an even more dramatic ninth inning. The Red Sox' clinching was shown on the big scoreboard screen in right-center field as the Blue Jays took the field for the bottom of the inning. Helplessly, they stood and watched the replay from Boston that meant their demise.
Soon, their heads all turned to follow the flight of Tettleton's morale-crushing drive off reliever Tom Henke. That sent the Blue Jays scuffling disconsolately from the field and the Orioles jumping happily in a home plate celebration for their often criticized catcher who struck out 160 times this season.
Stieb was psyched for tonight's showdown, breaking off his slider to the consternation of the Orioles. He was perfect for the first eight batters before Bill Ripken slapped a double along the right field line, making second on a head-first slide just ahead of Junior Felix's throw. But Steve Finley bounced out to end the inning.
McDonald was not quite as sharp as Stieb, but nevertheless hummed his fastball in the mid-90s with good control, and mixed in his curve. The 6-foot-7 22-year-old allowed nothing to come of right fielder Finley's bobble of a hot George Bell single that enabled Bell to reach second with one out in the second.
More often than not, the Orioles backed McDonald with crisp defense. Third baseman Craig Worthington took a double away from Felix with a leaping catch of a line drive to open the third. In the fourth, Bill Ripken short-hopped a throw from center fielder Mike Devereaux, spun and slammed the tag on the sliding George Bell attempting to stretch a single.
McDonald got away with a fastball down the middle to Fred McGriff leading off the sixth. McGriff almost nailed it for his second home run in two nights, but Devereaux reached just above the fence in right-center to make the catch.
The Orioles struck in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Bill Ripken doubled for the second time. This one was sharply hit, a liner that center fielder Mookie Wilson reacted to slowly and it sailed over his head. Finley followed with a line drive triple, a tougher chance, over Wilson's head for the game's first run.
Stieb, who could probably blame Wilson at least on the first hit, was beside himself. He glared in Wilson's direction. He watched the replay of Finley's triple on the scoreboard. He flipped the resin bag over his shoulder. After striking out the slump-ridden Brady Anderson and getting Cal Ripken on a grounder to second, Stieb threw his glove as he approached the Jays' dugout. He also threw his hat and a paper cup.
Toronto took the lead in the eighth. McGriff singled on a 3-0 pitch. Bell fanned and kicked some dirt. But Olerud parked a fastball over the right field fence to put the Blue Jays in front, 2-1.
In the bottom of the inning, the Orioles drove Stieb not only to distraction but cover. They loaded the bases when Jeff McKnight and Worthington singled and Stieb plunked Bill Ripken in the back. With Tom Henke in relief, Finley got his second RBI with a deep fly to right.
Despite a career high of nine strikeouts, McDonald finally gave way in the ninth. With two out, consecutive singles brought in Gregg Olson from the bullpen, and he got McGriff on a soft fly to left.