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Today in Blue Jays playoffs history: two one-run losses against the Athletics

The Blue Jays may not be in the playoffs this year but we can look back in history to see how they did on October 7.

Ol' Rickey Henderson in an Athletics uniform
Ol' Rickey Henderson in an Athletics uniform

In their history, the Toronto Blue Jays have played two games on October 7: one in 1989 and the other in 1992. Both were against the Oakland Athletics at SkyDome, and both were one-run losses. Of course, the 1989 series would end in elimination while the Jays went all the way in 1992. Let's look back at those games.

October 7, 1989 - ALCS Game 4

A's 6 @ Jays 5, A's take a 3-1 series lead

The Blue Jays came into the series as big underdogs against the powerhouse 1989 A's, who had Rickey Henderson and Dave Henderson at the top of the lineup, Jose Canseco and Mark McGuire in the middle, a solid starting rotation and Dennis Eckersley in the bullpen. Down two games to one, Cito Gaston sent out Mike Flanagan to face off against Bob Welch.

Flanagan got in trouble in the third inning. Walt Weiss doubled then stole third, but that didn't matter because Rickey Henderson came up to slam a pitch 430 feet to dead centre to give the A's a 2-0 lead. We may be talking more about that huge homer but then Jose Canseco stepped to the plate and this happened:

That was the first home run ever hit into the 500-level in the new SkyDome. Dale Brazao and Rosie DiManno wrote in the Toronto Star the next day about how that monster homer quieted the Toronto crowd, which had--with much apparent clairvoyance and foresight--been chanting "Ster-oids! Ster-oids!" whenever Canseco stepped up to bat.

But the offensive force of the day came from Henderson, who later hit another two-run homer off of Flanagan in the fifth inning. Henderson walked in the top of the ninth against the late John Cerutti, but was erased on a pickoff. Henderson may have been the king of stolen bases, but he had real trouble against the lefty Cerutti, who had picked him off once already earlier in the season. Henderson couldn't read Cerutti's delivery and slid back into first twice on pitches to home.

"If I have my proper balance, I can read him. So, even when I go (throw) to the plate, he's running back (toward first)." Cerutti told Star reporters Neil MacCarl and Tom Slater.

The Blue Jays were down 6-3 going into the bottom of the eighth inning, with Rick Honeycutt throwing his second inning of work. Honeycutt, who had already allowed a Blue Jays run in the previous inning on a Pat Borders RBI-single, allowed a Manuel Lee single (Lee eventually advanced to third) and walked Lloyd Moseby. Tony La Russa had enough of him and called on closer Dennis Eckersley for a five-out save. Eck got a quick out when Wilson grounded out on the first pitch, but that brought Lee in to score. Fred McGriff then singled through the hole to score Wilson to make it 6-5, but Eckersley retired the rest of the Blue Jays to seal the victory. Close, but no cigar for the Jays.

The Blue Jays would lose 4-3 in game 5 the next day and the A's would be crowned the AL East Champions. The A's would then go on to sweep the San Francisco Giants (despite a little earthquake delaying things).

October 7, 1992 - ALCS Game 1

A's 4 @ Jays 3, A's take a 1-0 series lead

Flash forward three years and the Blue Jays were facing the same club again, although now the A's were the underdogs. Being game 1, both managers sent out their ace: Dave Stewart for the A's and Jack Morris for the Jays.

Just like the 1989 game, the A's jumped to an early lead on a couple of homers, this time it was in the second inning when Mark McGwire hit a two-run shot followed by a solo job by Terry Steinbach. Morris then held the A's at bay while Toronto slowly clawed back. Fan favourite Pat Borders got the Blue Jays in flight (as Jerry Howarth would say) with a solo shot in the fifth, and the frisky forty-year-old Dave Winfield joined the party with a solo shot of his won in the sixth.

In the eighth, Winfield doubled against Stewart then John Olerud singled him home against reliever Jeff Russell to tie it up. But then Russell got Candy Maldonado to bounce out and ended the rally. Without anyone warming up in the bullpen, Jack Morris, at 105 pitches, jogged back onto the mound for the ninth. There was no more save situation possible, so why didn't Gaston bring in Tom Henke or Duane Ward?

"Jack has pitched well enough for us this year to get a shot to try and win that game for us," Gaston told the Star's Allan Ryan after the game.

Gaston gave a shot to Morris, but unfortunately Morris gave up a shot to Harold Baines on the second pitch of the inning to give the A's a 4-3 lead to a chorus of boos from the ever-supportive Toronto crowd. (He actually got booed after walking two in a row in the fifth.) Morris would finish the inning unscathed, pitching a complete game in a losing effort, allowing just six hits, but three of them were homers.

Eckersley was called on to come in for the ninth and got Kelly Grbuer and Pat Borders to ground out to star the inning. Rookie backup catcher Ed Sprague was called in to pinch hit, and hinted at his eventual post-season magic by punching a solid single up the middle against Eck, but then Devon White popped up on the first pitch to end the game and to give Eckersley another save against the Blue Jays.

Sources:, Toronto Star Archvies