After our quick departure from the 1989 playoffs, Jays fans were satiated but still had that hunger for winning. Two trips and no advancement in the playoffs is decent but still short of the goal. 1990 had the Blue Jays in contention right up until the final few games of the season. In the grand scheme of things, this was the year to see if we could pull off a title with Nelson Liriano at second, Mookie Wilson in centre and John Olerud learning at the big league level as the DH. Could Dave Stieb, Todd Stottlemyre, Mike Flanagan, John Cerutti and Jimmy Key be a playoff rotation? Could Duane Ward and Tom Henke co-exist? Was there enough bullpen to pull through when we needed it? The answer, of course, was nooooot quite. We finished 2 games behind the Boston Red Sox for the AL East crown with a record of 86-76. So was the Home Opener a precursor of events to follow? 49, 673 were packed in the SkyDome to see exactly what Pat Gillick had put together.
Date: April 10, 1990
Location: The SkyDome, Toronto, ON, Canada
Game: Texas Rangers @ YOUR Toronto Blue Jays
Weather: Clear and no view of the sky…in the SkyDome…hmmmm…
This would be another classic pitching duel with Sir David Stieb representin’ against the ageless knuckleballer Charlie Hough, 1B Rafael Palmeiro, 2B Julio Franco and the rest of the Rangers. The Jays would get all their scoring in the 5th off Hough. Tony Fernandez roped an RBI triple scoring Junior Felix from second and then scored promptly on a base hit by Moooookie Wilson. Hough only gave up the 2 earned through 5 but also walked 6! Stieb on the other hand had another of his efficient performances with 6 innings of no run ball. Just to screw you up in the head a bit, Tom Henke pitched a scoreless 7th, Duane Ward tackled a scoreless 2/3 in the eighth and David Wells close the last 1.1 innings with only a homerun in the 9th from Ruben Sierra to make it interesting. It still counted as a save of the 2-1 Blue Jays win.
How often did you see Henke out in the 7th? Not very often but “Boomer” Wells was a highly touted arm and for this game it seemed to work out effectively. It was a great game and showed the fight that the Blue Jays had. Up until the last 8 games of the season the Blue Jays were leading the division by 1 1/2 over the Red Sox…then blew 6 of the last 8 games to give it up to the Sox (holy 1987 Batman!). It was this year we learned that no matter how good the Jays were they were just not good enough. Sure you had Kelly Gruber having a monster season at third, the development of Olerud, Wells and Ward and the majesty of Stieb (finally getting a no-hitter versus Cleveland in September).
They almost made it. Unfortunately, as my high school music teacher once said, almost only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, nuclear war and slow dancing. Bring on 1991!