Two weeks ago, the Toronto Blue Jays appeared to have a good chance of catching the Boston Red Sox in the American League East.
Since then, the Red Sox have all but ended the race by winning 11 straight games. If you’re looking for reasons, start with Jim Rice.
Rice went 4 for 5, including his 18th home run, and drove in 3 runs Wednesday night as Boston took another step toward the playoffs by hammering the Orioles, 9-4, at Baltimore.
Roger Clemens picked up his 22nd victory as Boston increased its lead to 8 1/2 games over the second-place Blue Jays, whose game against New York was postponed by rain.
But the story is Rice, who has driven in 20 runs in his last 14 games. That hasn’t satisfied some people, who wonder why Rice doesn’t have more home runs.
“You hit what you can get, that’s all you can do,” Rice said. “If the homers aren’t there, they’re not there. That’s all in the past, you can’t make up for it.
“No one can tell when he can hit a home run. I’ve never tried to hit homers, so why start now? I just see the ball, and react to it.”
Rice’s home run total is the second-lowest in his career. He hit 17 during the strike-shortened season of 1981, his lowest total since he hit 22 as a rookie.
But he has 99 RBIs, one shy of his fourth straight season over 100. His .332 batting average gives him a chance to surpass his personal high of .325 in 1979.
Rice’s two-run homer capped a three-run first inning against Ken Dixon (10-12) to get the Red Sox rolling. He added a tie-breaking RBI single during a three-run fifth that gave Boston a 6-4 lead.
Bill Buckner, who also had three singles, hit his 13th homer in the seventh. Dave Henderson and Rich Gedman homered in the ninth.
Clemens (22-4) yielded four runs in the second inning, but still earned his fifth straight decision, allowing 6 hits in 6 innings, striking out 6 and walking 4. Calvin Schiraldi pitched the ninth and got his eighth save.
It was the 37th come-from-behind victory for the Red Sox, including 9 of their last 10. The Orioles have lost 19 of 24. Only a loss by last-place Milwaukee prevented the Orioles from falling into the cellar. Baltimore has not been in last place since 1955.
Detroit 11, Milwaukee 7--Kirk Gibson and Darnell Coles each hit a pair of two-run homers, and the Tigers tied a team record with six home runs while overpowering the Brewers at Detroit.
Four of the Tigers’ homers came during a six-run fourth inning that gave the victory to Walt Terrell (12-11). Chet Lemon led off with a home run off reliever Chris Bosio (0-4), breaking a 5-5 tie. Mike Heath followed with an inside-the-park homer.
Alan Trammell doubled, and Gibson homered over the right-field roof. Darrell Evans walked, and Coles hit his 18th homer.
The four home runs in an inning tied a team record, last accomplished on July 29, 1974, against Cleveland. It was the sixth time the Tigers have hit six homers in a game, most recently on Aug. 9, 1971, against Boston.
Rob Deer hit his league-leading 33rd homer, and Rick Cerone also homered for Milwaukee.
Texas 3, Seattle 2--Ruben Sierra doubled home pinch-runner Bob Brower with two out in the 10th inning to lift the Rangers over the Mariners at Arlington, Tex.
The victory was only the third in nine games for Texas, which remained 8 1/2 games behind the Angels in the West.
Greg Harris (9-8) got the win with 2 innings of one-hit relief.
Seattle’s Jim Presley hit his 26th homer of the season.
Oakland 6, Chicago 2--Jose Rijo pitched a five-hitter, and Donnie Hill hit a three-run homer as the A’s beat the White Sox at Chicago.
Rijo (7-10) struck out 10 and walked two as he pitched his fourth complete game.