TORONTO — TORONTO -- After five games, the American League Championship Series has produced at least one shred of conclusive evidence.
In the head-to-head matchup of No. 1 pitchers, the Toronto Blue Jays and Juan Guzman have proved clearly superior to the Chicago White Sox and Jack McDowell. That pairing has gone two rounds and is the primary reason the Blue Jays will return to Chicago with a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven series that resumes tomorrow.
Guzman was even more effective in Game 5 yesterday than he was in Game 1, as the Blue Jays recovered from back-to-back losses with a 5-3 victory that at least temporarily stalled the White Sox's comeback bid. The hard-throwing right-hander gave only three hits, and more importantly just one walk, while dominating the White Sox in his seven innings.
The Blue Jays were hardly overpowering in becoming the first home team to register a win in the series. But they managed to score in five different innings, including the first four. McDowell lasted only 2 1/3 innings, giving up five hits and three walks.
"I knew what I had to do," said McDowell, who gave up all the runs in Chicago's 7-3 opening loss. "It's just a matter of going out and making the pitches -- which I didn't do."
Considered the favorite to win the American League Cy Young Award on the strength of a 22-10 regular-season record, McDowell has given up nine earned runs and 18 hits in nine innings in losing his first two post season starts.
"I feel the worst for the guys in this clubhouse," he said. "They are looking to me for some leadership, which I wasn't able to do."
Although McDowell struggled, Guzman was at his overpowering best. He had a perfect game until the fifth, when Ellis Burks' one-out home run got the White Sox on the scoreboard. But that would be the only scoring for the AL West champions until Robin Ventura delivered a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth to give the Blue Jays a late scare.
In his previous start, Guzman was extremely wild, walking eight and hitting a batter in six innings.
"We were kind of hoping for another game like that one -- where we'd have a few chances," said White Sox manager Gene Lamont.
"But he just overpowered a lot of our hitters today. He had awfully good stuff -- and very good control. He was overpowering."
Guzman had predicted that he'd have an easier time than in the series opener "because I know what I have to do."
He was right.
"[Today] it was much better," he said. "I had better control of my fastball. The last time I was trying to do too much.
"I realized I had to relax to do my best. That's what I did."
And he did it with style. Guzman struck out six and, other than the home run by Burks, had only one difficult spot. That came in the seventh inning, when Guzman's only walk and a single by Burks put two runners on base for Bo Jackson. It was the first of two straight at-bats in which Jackson would represent the tying run. Each time Jackson struck out to end the inning, and in the second instance, the game.
"I just went right at him," Guzman said of his seventh-inning duel with Jackson. "I had to go right at him with my fastball and get ahead in the count. That's the best way to pitch against him."
Ultimately, Guzman finished off Jackson the same way reliever Duane Ward did in the ninth inning -- with a breaking ball outside the strike zone. It was the last of the 113 pitches (71 strikes) Guzman would throw.
Although Guzman was having an easy time of it with the White Sox hitters, McDowell never did find a comfort level. From the outset, the Blue Jays were swinging freely and aggressively and quickly stopped whatever momentum the White Sox had built with successive wins in games 3 and 4.
McDowell's problems started almost immediately and the initial damage was self-inflicted. Rickey Henderson led off with a double past third base and, after Devon White struck out, Roberto Alomar walked.
With Joe Carter at the plate, Henderson and McDowell engaged in a bluffing duel that the runner eventually won. After faking a pickoff, McDowell went for the real thing and appeared to have caught Henderson, who broke for third.
But the ball went past second baseman Joey Cora for a throwing error and Henderson scored the game's first run. "It was just a weird play," said McDowell. "We had him picked off. It wasn't a set play, I just spun and threw the ball. But Joey wasn't quite there yet and it went through."
After that the Blue Jays just poked away at McDowell, picking up single runs in each of the next two innings before his departure. "I didn't think his split-finger [fastball] was very good," said Lamont. "He's basically a two-pitch pitcher, and when one of them isn't working, it makes it tough."
Despite giving the appearance of being in charge throughout the game, the Blue Jays never did put the White Sox away. Ward had a 5-1 lead when he entered in the ninth inning, but he didn't wrap up the game in tidy fashion, despite recording three strikeouts.
Ventura quieted the remains of the crowd of 51,375 with his long home run, scoring behind Raines, who had singled, to make it 5-3. When Ward proceeded to hit Burks with a 3-2 pitch, the audience was stunned into virtual silence as Jackson strode to the plate representing the tying run.
Try as he might, though, the powerful shoe salesman couldn't just do it, though he had one great opportunity. The 1-1 pitch from Ward was a hanging slider, belt high and in the center of the plate.
Jackson fouled it off, and the anguish on his face told the story of the pitch that got away. "I almost broke my bat over my knee when I fouled that last one off," said Jackson. "I saw it [the pitch] leave his hand."
The next pitch was another slider, this one well out of the strike zone. Jackson chased it and missed, his sixth strikeout in the past three games, and the Blue Jays were one step away from their second straight AL pennant.
AL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE
CHICAGO WHITE SOX vs. TORONTO BLUE JAYS
%Blue Jays lead series, 3-2
Gm. ... Result
1 ..... Blue Jays 7, White Sox 3
..... Blue Jays 3, White Sox 1
..... White Sox 6, Blue Jays 1
..... White Sox 7, Blue Jays 4
..... Blue Jays 5, White Sox 3
Gm. ... Date ........ Site ..... Time
6 ..... Tomorrow .... Chicago .. 8:12
7* .... Wednesday ... Chicago .. 8:12
TV: All games on chs. 11, 9