TORONTO -- The opening game of the 90th World Series played more like a boxing match than a baseball game. The Philadelphia Phillies came out swinging and went for a quick knockout. The defending World Champion Toronto Blue Jays counterpunched in the early rounds and then let loose with a couple of roundhouse lefts that turned the fight in their favor.
So much for metaphor. Devon White and John Olerud turned Game 1 around with a couple of middle-inning home runs and the Blue Jays went on to score a resounding 8-5 victory before a sellout crowd of 52,011 at SkyDome.
Former Oriole Curt Schilling, who had made a name for himself with two big performances in the National League Championship Series, did not come up large this time, giving up seven runs to take the loss in his World Series debut.
The Phillies bullpen didn't fare much better. Left-hander David West came on to try and keep his club close in the seventh, but gave up a pair of run-scoring doubles that broke the game open.
It was only Game 1, of course, but the talented Toronto lineup already has put the Phillies on the defensive. If veteran right-hander Dave Stewart can put together another of his patented postseason performances in Game 2 tonight, the Blue Jays will go to Philadelphia very much in control of the best-of-seven series.
"They are a tough lineup to pitch to," Phillies manager Jim Fregosi said. "It's a lineup that you have to make good pitches to get them out. If you get the ball up and over the plate, they are going to hit it."
For all the talk of the Phillies and their Animal House approach to the game, it was baseball as usual at SkyDome. The Blue Jays overcame a rocky performance by starter Juan Guzman with their late-inning offensive barrage and then turned the game over to their capable bullpen.
Of course, it has been the Phillies bullpen that has gotten most of the attention during the postseason, but it was apparent from the volatile playoff performance of stopper Mitch Williams that they would be in trouble if the World Series was decided in the late innings.
It never got to Williams last night, but it did get to Blue Jays middleman Al Leiter and stopper Duane Ward. Leiter picked up for a struggling Guzman to get his first postseason victory and Ward closed the deal to record his first World Series save.
"This team has a lot of heart," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "I think they are just like the Phillies. They (the Phillies) kept coming. They didn't give up. I think this could be a very interesting series."
It is no secret that one of the keys to controlling the Phillies offensive potential is to make them earn every baserunner, but Guzman struggled with his control from the start and flirted with disaster throughout the early innings.
He walked leadoff hitter Lenny Dykstra -- which is always a precarious way to begin -- and went on to give up two runs on two walks and RBI singles by John Kruk and Darren Daulton.
Guzman's penchant for pitching deep in the count not only hurt him in the immediate sense. He taxed himself with 35 pitches in the first inning, seemingly assuring an early exit. He settled down some after the first, but still had thrown 120 pitches by the time Leiter came on to start the sixth.
"I thought our gameplan was excellent," Fregosi said. "We wanted to make him throw a lot of pitches and get him out of the game early. We did that, but unfortunately, Al Leiter came in and threw a good ballgame."
Leiter pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings. He gave up four hits and struck out two, including Kruk with the bases loaded and the game in the balance in the sixth.
There is room to wonder if this World Series will turn on the performance of the two leadoff men. Dykstra is the guy who makes the Phillies offense go, and he made that clear very quickly when he followed up the first-inning walk with a stolen base to set up the first run. Rickey Henderson was brought in to add another dimension to the Blue Jays lineup, but the tremendous postseason performance of White is making a case for his return to leadoff spot.
White, who batted .444 in the playoffs, also drove in a run with a double and scored three times last night.
Henderson opened Game 1 the same way that Dykstra did, taking a walk from an obviously nervous Schilling, but the veteran outfielder no longer has the healthy legs to terrorize opposing pitchers. Schilling went 2-0 on White before getting some help from a couple of directions to get out of the inning.
First, Daulton went out to the mound to help him get a handle on his emotions, then first base umpire Paul Runge made a questionable call on a double-play relay to clear the bases. White appeared to beat the relay on his grounder to shortstop, but Runge didn't see it that way. Toronto manager Cito Gaston came out to argue that call and also had words with home plate umpire Dave Phillips before the inning was over.
The Blue Jays came after Schilling again in the second, opening the inning with three straight singles to score a run. Paul Molitor put them on the scoreboard with an RBI infield hit and Tony Fernandez bounced into a force play to tie the game.
So much for any possibility of a pitching duel. There was scoring in six of the first seven innings. The Phillies regained the lead on Kruk's second RBI single in the third and the Blue Jays tied the game again after an outfield breakdown put White on third base with no one out.
White hit a fly ball into the gap in left field that could have been caught by either Milt Thompson or Dykstra, but not by both. Thompson went for the ball, but only succeeded in deflecting it off Dykstra's chin. Joe Carter followed one out later with a fly ball to right field and White cruised home.
The defensive edge figured to go to the Blue Jays, who have Gold Glove winners at four positions, but they had their moments, too. Carter made an error in the first inning that allowed the second Phillies run to score from second without a throw. The Phillies also got some help in the fifth, when Mariano Duncan scored on a wild pitch.