Top Ten Moments in Toronto Blue Jays History - Number 2
Mark Everett Kelly
BarnBurner Sports Writer
Tuesday, March 31, 2020
While we await the start of the 2020 MLB season (whenever it occurs), I thought a look back at some historical memories to carry sports fans through would be therapeutic.
Date: October 11, 1992 - Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
Opponent: Oakland A's
Final Score: Blue Jays 7 Athletics 6 (11)
Entering the 1992 ALCS, the Jays postseason history was not one of accomplishment. The franchise had lost all three of their previous ALCS appearances. After taking a 3-1 series lead in their first ALCS against the Royals (1985), the results were abysmal.
Toronto's loss in Game 1 of the 1992 ALCS at Skydome, was their 12th loss in their last 14 postseason games. David Cone & Juan Guzman led the Jays to wins in Games 2 & 3, setting up Game 4.
The Jays' significant free-agent acquisition in the 1991 offseason, Jack Morris, took the mound for Toronto. Morris finished the regular season 21-6, becoming the first 20-game winner in franchise history.
Morris' postseason resume was another reason the team signed him. In 1991 Morris was the World Series MVP, going 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA in three series starts, including a 10-inning, CG SHO in Game 7.
This was his second start of the ALCS. Morris was a tough-luck Game 1 loser, surrendering a go-ahead HR to Harold Baines in the top of the 9th (after allowing three runs in the second inning, he retired 18 of 19 batters entering the 9th).
Oakland countered with Bob Welch. Welch finished 11-7 with a 3.27 ERA, 1.27 WHIP in 1992. Welch famously introduced himself to the MLB world as a rookie in 1978, striking out Reggie Jackson to end Game 2 of the World Series.
John Olerud's first postseason HR (and his first against Welch whom he was 3-20 against lifetime entering Game 4) gave the Jays a 1-0 lead in the top of the second. Morris allowed just a walk to his first seven batters, but Oakland scratched him up for five runs on five hits in the third inning, giving the A's a four-run lead (5-1). Ruben Sierra extended the A's lead to 6-1 in the bottom of the sixth, which was the score as Toronto came to bat against Welch in the top of the eighth.
Welch entered the inning having retired 18 of the 22 batters since Olerud's HR. Roberto Alomar lead-off double chased Welch, as manager Tony La Russa handed the game to his bullpen. Jeff Parrett faced two batters and retired neither Joe Carter or Dave Winfield as Oakland's lead was now 6-2. La Russa decided to go to his ace, Dennis Eckersley.
Dennis Eckersley experienced a rebirth upon his arrival in Oakland in 1987. The 32-year old finished 1986 with just six wins in 32 starts for the Chicago Cubs. Half-way through the 1987 season, La Russa decided to take advantage of Eckersley's ability to throw strikes by making him the closer, which changed his career.
The 1992 season saw Eckersley reach the pinnacle of that decision. He won both the AL Cy Young Award & MVP, dominating his opposition.
Eckersley put together the best four-year stretch of any reliever in MLB history. From the start of the 1989 season through Game 3 of the 1992 ALCS, Eckersley was unhittable. In 201 save opportunities (includes postseason), he posted 182 saves, allowed 46 ER (1.74 ERA), 171 batters to reach base (0.72 WHIP) & allowed 17 HR. He struck out 256 batters while only walking 12.
Olerud continued his hot hitting, greeting Eckersley with an RBI single to cut the lead to 6-3. Candy Maldonado followed with another RBI hit to make the score 6-4. Eckersley then composed himself and retired Kelly Gruber, Pat Borders, and struck out pinch-hitter Ed Sprague, leaving the tying run on second base. Mike Timlin worked out of trouble in the bottom of the eighth, setting the stage for the ninth inning.
Eckersley was 3-3 in save situations requiring two innings in 1992, retiring 18 of the 19 batters he faced. Devon White started the ninth with a single, bringing Alomar to the plate as the tying run. Eckersley retired Alomar in each of the five previous AB in his career.
Their sixth matchup finished differently, as Alomar rocketed Eckersley's sixth pitch over the fence in right-centerfield, tying the game at 6. Eckersley retired Carter & Winfield before allowing Olerud's fourth hit of the game. La Russa replaced his closer with Jim Corsi, who, after walking Maldonado and Kelly Gruber, retired Borders to leave the bases loaded.
Duane Ward retired six of the seven batters he faced, and after the Jays squandered another scoring opportunity in the tenth, Borders RBI sacrifice fly put them ahead in the 11th.
Tom Henke worked around a one-out single to Willie Wilson, retiring Mark McGwire end the game, recording a save for the third straight game.