They finished the dress rehearsals in the American League East Thursday night, with the Baltimore Orioles presenting the Detroit Tigers with a going-away gift, a 9-5 victory before a crowd of 19,749 at Tiger Stadium.
In a season when they've done some incredible things, the Orioles always seem to be trying to go one better, and they got close Thursday night, committing three errors that allowed Detroit to score five unearned runs in the first two innings.
That got the Tigers started to their 95th victory and moved them within one game of the first-place Toronto Blue Jays with three to play. The teams will now decide the division championship here this weekend, with the first of three scheduled games tonight. Doyle Alexander (8-0) will pitch for Detroit against Jim Clancy (15-10) in that one.
The formula for both teams is this:
--The Blue Jays can win the division outright by taking two of the three games.
--The Tigers can win the division outright only by sweeping the series. If they win two of three, the championship will be decided in a Monday playoff at Detroit.
Walt Terrell (17-10) survived a rough start but went the distance for his 10th complete game. The victory improved his record at Tiger Stadium to 13-2, but on the road he's 4-8. The Orioles got eight hits, including home runs by Ray Knight and Mike Young.
The Tigers had 11 hits, with shortstop Alan Trammell getting three and Matt Nokes and Kirk Gibson hitting homers.
"This is no longer a shot now," Detroit Manager Sparky Anderson said. "This is a showdown."
Trammell said: "It's down to two teams now, and we've got a chance. That's what you want, a chance."
Terrell said: "It most definitely was not my best stuff. I was just throwing it up there, trying to get it there on the fly. They hit a lot of bad pitches tonight."
Oriole starter Mike Boddicker (10-12) gave up 7 runs--but only 2 earned--on 7 hits in 4 innings.
"We opened the door, and they walked in," Baltimore Manager Cal Ripken said. "That's the sign of a good ballclub."
The Blue Jays' flight from Toronto to Windsor, Canada, Thursday night was aborted shortly after takeoff when a bird was sucked into one of the plane's engines.
As the Canadian Airlines plane was leaving the ground, passengers reported hearing a thump and a seeing a flare of flame from an engine on the right side. Five minutes later, the pilot announced the plane was returning to Pearson International airport for "precautionary reasons."
As the plane landed, emergency trucks were waiting, but the landing went smoothly.
Most of the Blue Jays were on the flight. Two members of the team, catcher Ernie Whitt and outfielder Rick Leach, both Detroit-area natives, had gone ahead of the team.
"It scared me," rookie pitcher David Wells said. "The stewardess sat besides me and told me in case of emergency, I was to open the door."
The Blue Jays spent the time waiting for a new plane playing cards and reading. They took a bus from Windsor across the Detroit River to Detroit later that night.