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Don't look now, but Blue Jays might be on a pennant slide


TORONTO -- The Toronto Blue Jays were supposed to win the American League East in a walk, but now they appear to be on the run.

The Orioles dealt them a lopsided defeat last night at SkyDome and the Blue Jays did not come out of it acting like nothing happened. They had all the appearances of a team that is feeling the weight of their great expectations.

"We're getting close to crunch time, although we're not there yet," said losing pitcher Jimmy Key, who was knocked out after 3 1/3 innings. "We've come too far to let this thing get away. There's plenty of time left and we're only one game out."

Say what? Key corrected himself quickly. The Blue Jays are one game up on the Orioles, but they couldn't have felt like it after they absorbed a seven-run defeat. They have to win today or give up a share of the division lead.

"We're just not pitching well right now," Key said. "We just want to show Baltimore we can play with them and they want to show us they can play with us."

Again, a curious comment. The Blue Jays came into the season a prohibitive favorite in the AL East and they swept the Orioles in the first series at SkyDome. This is no time to wonder if you can play with the second-place team. But the heat is on.

Manager Cito Gaston kept the door closed to his office and never met the media last night. Hardly a sign of quiet confidence.

"There is no sense of panic," veteran outfielder Dave Winfield said. "It was just one game. We've just got to go home and sleep fast and come back tomorrow."

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