TORONTO — TORONTO -- Like a repentant student, Pat Borders reported to SkyDome this morning for more throwing practice. The lesson will be more pleasant this time.
Borders, Toronto's beleaguered catcher, made his best throw of the postseason last night. He caught Atlanta's Brian Hunter at second base in the ninth inning of the Blue Jays' 3-2 victory in the third game of the World Series at SkyDome.
"It felt great to throw anybody out at any time," Borders said. "But that was probably the best time to do it."
The throw ended Atlanta's streak of nine consecutive stolen bases against Borders. The throw also marked only the third runner Borders has thrown out in 28 tries during the postseason this year.
His problems forced the extraordinary, spring-training-like 35-minute throwing workout on Monday's off-day. Coach John Sullivan wanted Borders to stop rushing his throws and not neglect the rest of his game, such as blocking pitches in the dirt.
"He was a little better," said Sullivan, aware that Otis Nixon stole second on a pitchout in the eighth. "But he did everything else. He smothered some of those pitches [in the dirt]. If he doesn't do that, we don't win."
The situation in the ninth helped Borders as much as the extra practice.
Pinch runner Hunter, who had only one steal in three tries during the regular season, was at first. On a full-count pitch to Jeff Blauser, Atlanta manager Bobby Cox put on the hit-and-run play.
Nixon was safe on a pitchout because it was a straight steal play. A runner goes all out on a straight steal. On a hit-and-run play, the runner goes under control in case the ball is hit in the air.
That gave Borders the extra time he needed. Borders plucked a Duane Ward slider out of the dirt, set up properly and made a strong throw to second to catch Hunter. Blauser also was out on a checked-swing strike, a call that prompted bellowing from Cox and his ejection.
"All I was concentrating on was not making a bad throw to second," Borders said. "That's probably the worst way you can do it, but I got it there. What I want to do is make a good throw and not compound a stolen base with an error."
Borders' situation puts the value of the stolen base under review. Opponents have run freely against Borders. No team has ever allowed so many stolen bases in the postseason.
Yet Toronto leads the Series, 2-1, and is 6-3 in the postseason. Of the 25 stolen bases against Borders, only seven have led to runs. Oakland's Willie Wilson set a record with seven stolen bases in the American League playoffs and never scored.
The explanation is the Blue Jays have done nothing to help Borders. The pitchers do not shorten their deliveries. The staff continues to throw its array of nasty, dirt-seeking breaking pitches. Atlanta is 7-for-28 with runners in scoring position.
"I'm not going to do anything to take away from [the pitchers'] game," Borders said. "I'm going to let them do their thing. They've been pretty successful at it. You can't ask them to change that."
His contribution this time was to have Juan Guzman throw his slider and keep blocking the pitch in the dirt. Until someone steals home, good pitching remains the best answer to stolen bases.