CHICAGO -- It was business as usual for Dave Stewart here last night. Once again the veteran right-hander rose to the kind of occasion he cherishes.
For the fourth time in his scintillating career, Stewart won a pennant-clincher as the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Chicago White Sox, 6-3, to win their second straight American League championship. It was the second win of the series for Stewart, who won MVP honors while improving his career AL playoff record to 8-0.
Although at times struggling with his control, and without overpowering stuff, Stewart limited the White Sox to four hits in 7 1/3 innings. He walked four, hit a batter and struck out three before Duane Ward came on to record the last five outs and earn his second save of the series.
"I don't know what to say, how to explain it [his postseason success]," said Stewart. "I'm living a childhood dream. To be able to pitch four clinchers is just a matter of being in the right place at the right time."
Stewart's other three clinching wins came with the Oakland A's. He joined the Blue Jays as a free agent last winter to provide pennant insurance, much the same as Jack Morris the year before. And Stewart didn't need anybody to write him a memo.
"I know that regardless of what happened during the regular season [when he won 12 games], this was the time of the year when they expected me to perform," said Stewart. "I'm just grateful to have had the opportunity."
Catcher Pat Borders, the MVP of last year's World Series, gave Stewart the bulk of the offensive and defensive support he needed. Borders drove in all three of the runs the Blue Jays scored off hard-luck loser Alex Fernandez and spent a good part of the evening blocking pitches in the dirt.
"He is the best I've ever played with when it comes to throwing your body on the ground and blocking the ball," said Stewart, whose lone trouble spot was caused by his wildness in the third inning.
Devon White's first postseason homer, a bases-empty shot off Scott Radinsky, and Paul Molitor's two-run triple off Roberto Hernandez broke the game open in the ninth inning. Warren Newson hit a meaningless homer off Ward in the ninth.
The going-away win gives the Blue Jays three days off at home, where they open the World Series Saturday.
Going into the game, the White Sox felt the elements (temperatures in the 40s) would work in their favor. But they were unable to generate any kind of sustained threat against Stewart.
"We had him on the ropes in both games, but we couldn't put him away," said White Sox manager Gene Lamont. "You've got to give him credit -- Dave Stewart is a great pitcher.
"Going into the series, we felt we could beat the Blue Jays, but we could never get a big hit when we needed it. They were better than we were in this series."
Last night's game was billed as a classic pitching matchup, pitting youth against experience, and that's exactly how it came off.
"I knew it was important to get off to a good start," said Stewart, who often went deep into the count and relied on his guile to hold the White Sox in check. "I expected Alex Fernandez to pitch exactly as he did, which was outstanding."
During the regular season, Fernandez had a 4-0 record and a 1.12 ERA in games played with the temperature below 50. But, after an easy first inning, erratic control cost him two runs in the second.
Two walks and a hit batter loaded the bases. Fernandez could not afford to be overly cautious. Borders took advantage with a single to right, scoring John Olerud and Molitor.
Despite a four-pitch walk to Robin Ventura in the second, Stewart breezed through the first two innings. But then, he, too, had a control lapse.
With one out in the third, Ozzie Guillen dropped a double between Joe Carter and White and Tim Raines hit a grounder to left. Stewart hit Joey Cora with a 3-and-2 pitch to load the bases and set up a showdown with Frank Thomas.
ZTC The White Sox slugger prevailed, but only after getting a favorable checked-swing call on an inside 2-and-2 pitch and then taking a breaking ball that just missed the outside corner. Thomas' walk forced in the first run and the White Sox forged a 2-2 tie when Raines scored on Ventura's forcing grounder.
Although the White Sox tied the score, Stewart's escape without major damage was the key to his game.
"One thing I learned from [Oakland pitching coach] Dave Duncan, was to take it one batter at a time, not let it carry over. Once I walked [Thomas], it was important I get the next guy [Ventura]."
An inning later, two defensive breakdowns by the White Sox gave the Blue Jays a 3-2 lead. Molitor reached base when Ventura booted his grounder and went to third on Sprague's one-out single.
Borders then hit what should have been a routine double-play ball to Guillen at shortstop. But Cora's relay skipped past Thomas for an error.
The Blue Jays then threatened to break the game open in the sixth, but were thwarted by Fernandez, who challenged the heart of their lineup and won.
White singled to open the inning and went to third when Roberto Alomar poked a hit-and-run single through the left side.
With runners on first and third and none out, Carter struck out on a vicious breaking ball. Then Olerud was jammed by a fastball and popped up.
Molitor walked to load the bases. But Fernandez wrapped up a sterling performance by getting Tony Fernandez to pop out.
But every time the Blue Jays were stifled by his young opponent, Stewart had an answer until he faltered slightly in the eighth. A scorching single by Thomas with one out brought Ventura to the plate representing the tying run.
When Stewart's first pitch to the left-handed hitter was driven deep down the right-field line, but barely foul, it was a signal for Gaston.
"He never wants to come out, but after Ventura hit that foul, I thought that was enough," said Gaston. He got no objection from Stewart.
"If I'm going to come out, Duane Ward is the guy I want to give the ball to," said Stewart.
Ward struck out Ventura and Burks to end the eighth inning.
The big right-hander got a three-run bonus in the top of the ninth, when Lamont's pitching changes put an exclamation point on the White Sox's futile effort to unseat the defending AL champions.
"I was trying to keep the game close," Lamont said, explaining his decision to have the left-handed Radinsky replace Kirk McCaskill, who had worked 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Fernandez. "I wanted to turn those two guys around [switch-hitters White and Alomar] and make them hit from the right side.
"We did it in Toronto [in Game 4] and it worked. This time it didn't."
L Which, perhaps, provided a fitting finish for the White Sox.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX vs. TORONTO BLUE JAYS
) Blue Jays win series, 4-2
Gm. .. .. .. .. .. ..Result
1 .. .. ..Blue Jays 7, White Sox 3
2 .. .. ..Blue Jays 3, White Sox 1
3 .. .. ..White Sox 6, Blue Jays 1
4 .. .. ..White Sox 7, Blue Jays 4
5 .. .. ..Blue Jays 5, White Sox 3
6 .. .. ..Blue Jays 6, White Sox 3
Dave Stewart's record in the American League Championship Series:
Year .. .. ..Team .. ...W-L .. ..ERA .. ..IP .. ..H
1988 .. .. ..Oak. .. ...1-0 .. . 1.35 .. .13 1/3 .. .9
1989 .. .. ..Oak. .. ...2-0 .. ..2.81 .. .16 .. .13
1990 .. .. ..Oak. .. ...2-0 .. ..1.13 .. .16 .. ..8
1992 .. .. ..Oak. .. ...1-0 .. ..2.70 .. .16 2/3 .. 14
1993 .. .. ..Tor. .. ...2-0 .. ..2.03 .. .13 1/3 .8
Tot. .. .. .. .. .. .. .8-0 .. ..2.03 .. .75 1/3 52
Gm. .. .. .Date .. ..Site .. .. .. .. ..Time
1 .. .. .Saturday ..at Toronto .. .. ...8:29
2 .. .. .Sunday .. .at Toronto .. .. .. 8:29
3 .. ....Tuesday .. at NL .. .. .. .. ..8:12
4 .. .. .Oct. 20 .. at NL .. .. .. .. ..8:12
5* .. ...Oct. 21 .. at NL .. .. .. .. ..8:12
6* .. ...Oct. 23 ...at Toronto .. .. ...8:12
7* .. ...Oct. 24 ...at Toronto .. .. ...8:29
TV: All games on chs. 11, 9