Blue Jays, Phillies open run at pinball


TORONTO -- Well, what did you expect, a series of classic pitching duels and two-hour games?

Forget it.

The Philadelphia Phillies scored more runs this season (877) than any National League team since the 1962 Giants.

And the Toronto Blue Jays were the first team since 1893 with three players to finish 1-2-3 in the batting race.

Hold on to your scorecards.

The 90th World Series is under way.

Game 1 went to the Blue Jays, 8-5. The pinball resumes tonight, with veteran Toronto right-hander Dave Stewart facing Philadelphia left-hander Terry Mulholland.

Thank heavens the Toronto bars get to stay open an extra hour during the series. The new 2 a.m. closing time ensures that the Phils won't need their beer administered intravenously.

What did we learn from Game 1? That Al Leiter is a pivotal weapon for Toronto. That Roberto Alomar can dominate a game on defense. And that Devon White might be a superstar by the time this series is over.

Oh yes, we learned one other thing.

The Blue Jays can be as gritty as the Phillies.

Toronto fell behind three times in the first five innings, but took the lead on John Olerud's one-out homer off Phillies starter Curt Schilling in the sixth.

White, who hit .444 in the American League playoffs, had tied the score 4-4 with a home run off Schilling the previous inning. His RBI double off reliever David West in the seventh gave Toronto a 6-4 lead.

The Phils retired White only once -- when he grounded into a

double play. That's something White did only three times in 598 at-bats this season. Naturally, replays indicated he was safe.

He's fast, and he's strong: White's 15 home runs ranked only sixth on the Blue Jays this season. The average distance of his homers, however, led the team.

Of course, White wasn't the only hero. Leiter earned the win by pitching 2 2/3 scoreless innings. Olerud hit the game-winning homer. And closer Duane Ward pitched the final 1 1/3 innings for the save.

Then there was Alomar. After going hitless in his first three at-bats, he hit a two-run double to increase the Jays' lead to 8-4. But it was his play at second base that proved crucial for Toronto.

In the fifth inning, Alomar made a spectacular diving catch on a soft line drive directly over the head of Olerud at first base.

And in the sixth, he made a diving backhand stop up the middle to save a run. Alomar lost the ball as he got up, but Kevin Stocker was diving back to third base, and couldn't score.

The series' first classic moment came in the bottom half after Leiter issued a two-out walk to No. 9 hitter Kevin Stocker and then allowed back-to-back singles with two outs.

Up came John Kruk with the bases loaded. Kruk might look like Meat Loaf, but he swings a bat out of hell. He hit RBI singles off Juan Guzman his first two at-bats, then walked in his third.

But Leiter, one of two left-handers on the Toronto staff, presents a different challenge. Kruk hits 37 points lower against left-handers (.292-.329). He also was 1-for-13 with the bases loaded in the regular season.

The at-bat demonstrated why Leiter might play a pivotal role in this series. Most of the Phillies' best hitters -- Kruk, Darren Daulton, Len Dykstra -- swing from the left side.

Kruk (111 walks in the regular season) worked his usual 3-2 count. But he flailed at a fastball for strike three, and Olerud gave the Jays their first lead in the bottom half.

It was clearly a turning point, because the Jays spent the first five innings playing from behind. Three times, they tied the score against Schilling, after trailing 2-0, 3-2 and 4-3.

Both starters entered the game with gaudy numbers, but neither was effective. Guzman (5-0 in the postseason) needed 35 pitches to escape the first inning, and 120 to get through five.

Schilling, the MVP of the National League Championship Series, struggled from the start, and allowed seven runs (six earned) in 6 2/3 innings.

The fact that he lasted longer than Guzman figured to give the Phillies an edge, given the horrid middle-inning relief of both teams. But Leiter got the Blue Jays to Ward, and that was that.

So much for Game 1.

More pinball tonight.

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