AMERICAN LEAGUE ROUNDUP : Tigers Move Closer to Blue Jays

Some veteran Detroit Tiger players, including second baseman Lou Whitaker, tried to downplay the importance of this weekend's series against the Toronto Blue Jays.

But they aren't convincing themselves or the Detroit fans.

So when Tony Phillips provided the power and John Cerutti the pitching, the fans were in a festive mood Friday night at Detroit.

The second largest Tiger Stadium crowd of the season, 43,186, saw the Tigers beat the Blue Jays, 5-2, and climb to within one game of first-place Toronto in the American League East.

The Blue Jays, who blew the 1987 pennant to the Tigers the last week of the season, have lost eight of their last nine.

Cerutti, who spent the previous five seasons with the Blue Jays, won only his second game for the Tigers. The 31-year-old left-hander pitched eight innings, giving up six hits and both runs.

"We've got this game behind us," Cerutti said. "We just want to continue to play well and keep the pressure on them."

Phillips, the only Tiger batting at least .300, hit his 15th home run in the first inning, then singled home the go-ahead run in the eighth when the Tigers scored three runs.

"It's really too early to call this a crucial series," Whitaker said. "There are still 45 games left. A lot can happen between now and the end of the season."

Blue Jay Manager Cito Gaston denied his club felt any pressure.

"We're not shaken at all," he said. "We'll be back here tomorrow night to play them again."

With the score tied, 2-2, Milt Cuyler singled to open the eighth and took second when left fielder Candy Maldonado misplayed the ball for an error. Phillips singled home the tiebreaking run. After two walks loaded the bases, Travis Fryman singled home two more runs.

Minnesota 5, Oakland 4--The Twins' chances of winning at Minneapolis didn't appear good in the ninth inning.

Jose Canseco had hit two home runs and the Athletics, leading, 4-2, brought Dennis Eckersley in to protect the lead. But Eckersley gave up a single to Chili Davis, a double to Randy Bush and a single to Mike Pagliarulo as the Twins tied the score.

The Twins won it in the 12th inning against Gene Nelson to take a 2 1/2-game lead in the West. Oakland dropped five games back.

Chuck Knoblauch doubled with one out, went to third on Kirby Puckett's infield single and raced home on Kent Hrbek's slow roller.

Canseco homered in the fourth and sixth. He has 33 and is one behind major league leader Cecil Fielder.

Boston 3, Kansas City 2--The Red Sox don't think it's too early to start talking about winning the pennant. Ten days ago the Red Sox trailed the Blue Jays by 11 1/2 games and were starting to make plans for next season.

Suddenly, though, everything has changed.

Rookie Phil Plantier hit his first major league home run, a two-run shot in the eighth inning at Boston that gave the Red Sox their fourth victory in a row and eighth in the last nine games.

The Red Sox are only 4 1/2 games out of first place.

Red Sox starter Roger Clemens, 1-3 since the All-Star break, gave up five hits and struck out five in seven innings, but he and Royal starter Bret Saberhagen departed with the score tied, 1-1. Saberhagen also gave up five hits, but struck out only one.

New York 6, Chicago 5--After a one-game absence, Don Mattingly returned to the lineup at New York and made things difficult for the White Sox and 21-year-old rookie left-hander Wilson Alvarez.

Alvarez, who pitched a no-hitter Sunday at Baltimore, lost his bid for back-to-back no-hitters on a third-inning bunt single by Pat Kelly.

Mattingly singled to knock Alvarez out of the game in the fifth, then singled to start a two-run rally that brought the Yankees from behind in the eighth.

Pascual Perez, just off the disabled list, made his first start since May 31. He gave up four runs and seven hits in four innings.

Milwaukee 8, Baltimore 5--Paul Molitor, a contender for the battling title, had two hits and drove in three runs at Milwaukee to lead the Brewers.

Molitor, who raised his average to .333, helped Don August beat the Orioles for the fifth time in a row. August (9-5) gave up four runs and 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings.

Roy Smith (5-4) gave up four runs and seven hits in 2 1/3 innings. Leo Gomez of the Orioles homered for the third consecutive game and hit a three-run homer for the second day in a row.

Texas 5-9, Cleveland 3-13--Juan Gonzalez homered and doubled to help the Rangers end a five-game losing streak in the first game of a doubleheader at Cleveland.

But in the second game, third baseman Dean Palmer, who earlier hit a three-run home run, committed a three-base error on Carlos Baerga's bases-loaded grounder in the seventh inning.

With the score tied, 8-8, the Indians took the lead when Kenny Rogers walked Luis Lopez with the bases loaded. Baerga then grounded to third. Palmer, trying for a force at second, threw the ball into right field and three runs scored.

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