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AMERICAN LEAGUE ROUNDUP : Candiotti Rights Himself, Blue Jays in 3-0 Victory

Two months ago when the Toronto Blue Jays made a deal with Cleveland for Tom Candiotti, they thought the knuckleball specialist would assure them the pennant in the American League East.

The Blue Jays had a 3 1/2-game lead at the time. The veteran right-hander won a couple of games, and the Blue Jays built their lead to eight games. It appeared they had figured things just right.

Suddenly, though, the Blue Jays slumped and Candiotti’s knuckleball wasn’t knuckling. The Blue Jays lost a string of six consecutive Candiotti starts. They were in a hot pennant fight with Detroit.

Candiotti, in his most impressive performance with Toronto, gave up only one hit in eight innings Wednesday at Baltimore and pitched the Blue Jays to a 3-0 victory.

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With Detroit losing again to the Angels, Toronto moved two games ahead in the East.

Candiotti (11-11) gave up a single to Joe Orsulak and walked Glenn Davis, then retired the next 22 batters. Tom Henke pitched the ninth for his 31st save.

The Blue Jays, who swept the three-game series in Baltimore, have won five of their last six games and appear to have righted their shaky ship.

Joe Carter, shaking a two-week slump in which he drove in only one run, gave Candiotti the support he needed by doubling in two runs in the first inning against Ben McDonald (5-8).

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“It takes me an inning to get the feel of the knuckler,” Candiotti said. “Then, once I get my rhythm and mechanics down, I usually do pretty good.

“This was better than just good. It was one of my finest efforts. Anytime you only give one walk and only have two baserunners, you’ve pitched a good game.

“Those two runs in the first inning enabled me to relax and keep throwing the knuckleball until I got it right.”

Candiotti said he had pitched some good games without results for the Blue Jays but hoped he could give them more efforts like this one down the stretch.

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Manny Lee singled in the other run in the ninth.

Minnesota 4, Cleveland 2--The Twins continue their march in the West.

Brian Harper drove in two more runs at Cleveland, and the Twins retained an eight-game lead in the West with only 33 games left.

David West pitched a strong six innings for the victory. After Carl Willis pitched two scoreless innings, Rick Aguilera pitched the ninth for his 35th save.

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Kent Hrbek had two hits for the Twins, extending his hitting streak to 16 games.

“I just wouldn’t let myself get discouraged when I didn’t come through twice with the bases loaded,” said Harper, who is batting .314. “I swung at bad pitches both times.

“All I could do was wait for a good pitch to hit, and I was rewarded with two run-scoring hits.”

The Indians, who committed six errors, had won four of their past five games.

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Oakland 9, Boston 3--In the previous four seasons, when he was winning 20 games, Dave Stewart was often shaky in the first inning.

Nobody worried about it because the hard-throwing right-hander usually turned it around and won.

This season, his worst since 1986, it is a different situation. So, Manager Tony La Russa was concerned when the Red Sox scored twice in the first inning.

“I thought it was going to be a tough day,” La Russa said. “But he pulled himself together and we had a great day.”

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Stewart (10-8) went eight innings, giving up only one more run.

But he had only a 3-2 lead in the fifth when outfielders Mike Greenwell and Ellis Burks let Bruce Jacoby’s two-out fly drop between them for a three-run double.

Either could have caught the ball, but Burks, the center fielder, didn’t know Greenwell, in left, had lost it in the sun.

Mark McGwire hit his second home run in two games in the eighth. Although he’s batting only .172 (34 for 198) at home, he has hit 13 of his 19 home runs in the Oakland Coliseum.

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New York 5, Texas 1--After mistakenly thinking he had been called out on strikes in the second inning at New York, rookie Bernie Williams singled in two runs.

He also homered leading off the fifth, and the Yankees ended the Rangers’ three-game winning streak.

“I thought he (umpire Al Clark) had called me out,” Williams said. “I started complaining and walking away.”

Manager Stump Merrill told the youngster he wasn’t out and to get back up there. Then came the big hit.

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Kansas City 7, Chicago 6--The White Sox built a 5-0 lead at Kansas City but couldn’t hold it and lost their ninth in a row.

Warren Cromartie’s two-out single in the ninth inning climaxed the Royals’ comeback and drove in Bill Pecota with the winning run. With two out Pecota beat out an infield hit and stole second.

Seattle 7, Milwaukee 6--The Mariners almost blew a 7-1 lead in the ninth inning at Seattle.

But with five runs in and the potential tying and go-ahead runs on base, Bill Swift finally put out the fire for his 11th save.

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The Brewers have lost 10 in a row in Seattle.


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