The Blue Jays, who had held a five-game advantage over the second-place Orioles on July 23 and led them by 4½ games on August 2, had lost five of six games – including two of the first three games in the series – to see the Orioles pull within one game of first place.
A loss to the Orioles in the Thursday matinee would knock the Blue Jays out of sole possession of first place for the first time since June 20 and leave the teams tied for the division lead with 47 games to play.
Prior to the series, one newspaper, the Globe & Mail, alluded to the Blue Jays’ pitching issues: “The upstart O’s are only two games behind the Jays, and the pitching matchups unquestionably favour the visitors at the SkyDome. But the Jays’ pitching would match up unfavourably against the Toledo Mud Hens these days.”1
Before their series against the Orioles, the Blue Jays had lost three of four games in Detroit while giving up 35 runs.
A preview of the series finale pointed out the challenge facing Linton: “Doug Linton will try to do today what Jack Morris could not do on Tuesday and what Jimmy Key failed to do last night. He will try to beat the Baltimore Orioles.”2
Linton, who was 12-9 with a 3.38 ERA in 23 starts for Triple-A Syracuse at the time of his recall and was Syracuse’s Pitcher of the Month for July, appeared ready for the challenge. In his first three appearances for the Blue Jays, Linton, who was 27, had a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings. He struck out 10 and in one stretch retired 16 consecutive hitters.
After the Orioles’ 11-4 victory over the Blue Jays in the third game of the series, Linton put his first major-league start into perspective. “Granted they’re right on our heels. But (Thursday’s) game isn’t the end of the season,” he said. “I mean, we’ve got 40 or some games left.”3
Asked by reporters if he was nervous, Linton told them to go to the Orioles clubhouse and ask their scheduled starter, rookie pitcher Arthur Rhodes, whether he had “any butterflies.” Linton added, “[H]ey, those guys are the ones who are a game back.”4
With 50,405 fans on hand, Linton retired leadoff hitter Brady Anderson on a groundout.
Ripken, who hadn’t hit a home run in 45 games – the longest stretch of his career since his rookie season in 1982, flied out to center. Devereaux was caught stealing to end the inning.
With two outs in the bottom of the first, Joe Carter hit his 26th home run of the season off Rhodes for the Blue Jays’ first run.
The Orioles immediately tied the game when Glenn Davis led off the second inning with his 10th home run of the season. Linton walked the next hitter, Randy Milligan, – but regrouped to retire the next three hitters.
The score remained 2-1 for the next four innings, as Linton pitched four hitless innings and Rhodes allowed just one baserunner (a walk).
Linton retired 15 consecutive hitters before Ripken doubled to left to lead off the seventh. After advancing to third when Davis grounded out to Carter at first base, Ripken tied the score on Milligan’s sacrifice fly to center.
Linton retired the Orioles in order in the eighth, and the Blue Jays took the lead in the bottom of the inning.
Devon White led off with a single to left and scored the go-ahead run on a double by Roberto Alomar. Todd Frohwirth relieved Rhodes and Carter’s sacrifice moved Alomar to third. After Dave Winfield walked, Alomar scored on a single by Candy Maldonado. Frohwirth struck out Gruber and Bell to end the inning.
Blue Jays closer Tom Henke retired Anderson, Devereaux, and Ripken in order in the ninth to seal the victory and earn his 21st save of the season.
In eight innings, Linton had allowed two runs and three hits and walked just one. He faced just 27 batters. In the Jays’ 10 games before Linton’s start, the starting rotation had an ERA of 9.49. Linton’s effort was just the fourth in 12 games in which a Blue Jays starter went at least seven innings.
Gaston praised Linton for his performance. “We were hoping he could get by for maybe six innings,” the manager said. “He gave us a lot more than we expected and at a time we needed it the most.”5
Henke concurred, saying, “You just don’t expect that out of a young guy. He picks up the whole staff with this one, and considering how the last two went, we got to feel we won the series even though it was a tie.”6
Linton gave his teammates the credit for the victory. “It’s a great feeling,” he said, “but if we don’t score two runs in the eighth, I wouldn’t be talking about my first win.”7
Gaston also mentioned the significance of the victory, “You go from tied for first (had Baltimore grabbed a third straight) to two games up. … Well, right, it’s pretty important. It was such a lift for all of us.”8
One newspaper account said the Jays “rebounded to claim their biggest win of the season so far.”9
The Orioles and Blue Jays played a three-game series in September. The Blue Jays won two of the games to finish the season with an 8-5 season advantage over Baltimore. Since Linton’s win over Baltimore six weeks before, the Orioles had slumped, posting an 18-19 record to fall into third place in the division. Meanwhile, Toronto went 23-16, strengthening its lead atop the AL East, on track for a second straight division title.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com, Newspapers.com, and Retrosheet.org.
1 Marty York, “Jays Do Little Against Tigers to Change Sparky’s Mind,” Globe and Mail (Toronto), August 10, 1992: D2.
2 Neil A. Campbell, “Linton’s Task to Hold Top Spot,” Globe and Mail, August 13, 1992: C8.
5 Allan Ryan, “Rookie Rescue,” Toronto Star, August 14, 1992: D1.
7 Associated Press, “Blue Jays Rookie Brings Down Orioles, 4-2,” Los Angeles Times, August 14, 1992: C6.
9 Ryan. This game had the highest Championship Leverage Index (cLi) value of any 1992 regular-season Blue Jays game as computed by Baseball-Reference.com. According to Baseball-Reference, “cLi measures the importance of a game to a team’s chances of winning the World Series.” https://www.baseball-reference.com/about/wpa.shtml.