Lightning Strikes Twice

Thursday, June 12 2003 @ 11:45 AM EDT

Contributed by: Mick Doherty

Yanks Grab Upper Hand in Ultimate Series, 3-2
Guidry Outduels Key, 3-1

Ultimate Series: The Concept
Recaps: Game 1 * Game 2 * Game 3 * Game 4 * Game 5 Below
Box Scores: Game 1 * Game 2 * Game 3 * Game 4 * Game 5

In what was certainly the strangest game in an already paranormal Ultimate Series, the All-Time Blue Jays and Post-1977 All-Time Yankees finally returned to play. After a 30-day layoff brought on by bizarre inclement weather patterns, an international tantrum by the Yankee owner, a stadium under quarantine and a border brawl, the two teams ultimately faced off in Game 5 in a different stadium -- in fact, a different city -- than originally scheduled.

After all that, the All-Time Jays find themselves one game from elimination after falling prey to Louisiana Lightning for the second time in the series.

Ron Guidry, who shut out the Blue Jays on three hits in Game 1 of this showdown, surrendered a massive home run to Jay 2B Roberto Alomar on his first pitch of the game, then settled down to shut out Toronto on four hits the rest of the way.

"We left Ronnie in for 138 pitches because he looked strong pitching on 52 days rest," said New York pitching coach Jim Bouton. "And he's unlikely to have to pitch again in this series. Or, well, really ever again."

Guidry's opponent, fellow southpaw and Game 2 winner Jimmy Key, managed a workmanlike seven-inning effort, allowing six hits and three runs, all earned. But in one of the oddest managerial moves in recent memory, the Jays relieved Key in the eighth with Game 4 star Roger Clemens, who held his future teammates to one hit and struck out 16 in the long-ago previous tilt. The Rocket responded with two more scoreless frames, but is unlikely to be available the rest of the way.

The game was originally scheduled for Yankee Stadium, but after 17 days of rain and sleet in The City That Never Sweeps, the commissioner's office ordered a move to Toronto for a match in old Exhibition Stadium. Yankee owner George Steinbrenner's apoplectic response was to throw himself in front of New York's team bus as it approached the Canadian border, leading to fisticuffs between tough-guy catchers Thurman Munson and Pat Borders.

"Talk about your Borders brawls," noted Toronto third base coach Bill Madlock. Bystanders awarded the fight to Borders on points, but Munson later claimed he'd have won if he'd only stuck to his strategy of pretending he was facing off with Reggie Jackson.

Speaking of Jackson, Mr. October returned to the New York lineup and contributed two hits while scoring a run, but Munson sat and watched his backup, Jorge Posada, strike out three times. "I throw punches. He just punches out," grumbled Munson after the game. Borders had one hit, which Munson claimed was one more than the former World Series MVP landed in the brawl.

The planned matchup in Exhibition Stadium never took place because the World Health Organization declared the venue off-limits after detecting trace elements of DARS (Doug Ault Residue Syndrome) in the atmosphere. After another 10-day delay, the game was finally moved indoors to Skydome and the series' original 2-3-2 format was altered to a 2-2-1-1-1 schedule.

When the game finally did get started with the Alomar dinger, the Yankees immediately answered in the top of the second when Graig Nettles singled and scored on a gap double by Alfonso Soriano. The score remained 1-1 until Bernie Williams belted a two-out home run with Jackson on base in the sixth, and neither team dented home plate the rest of the way.

Guidry was the first Yankee pitcher to solve Toronto's slugging first sacker Carlos Delgado, who came into the game batting .692 in the series, as the lithe lefty held the Jay cleanup hitter to a meaningless semi-intentional third-inning walk in four plate appearances.

Delgado had a chance to do some damage in the fifth when he strode to the plate with two men on and two outs, but his dramatic 13-pitch at-bat culminated with a sharp grounder that momentarily handcuffed Soriano, who was able to recover and throw to Don Mattingly to end the inning.

As the series returns to the Bronx for what could be a deciding Game 6, the Yankees have indicated they will bypass Game 2 loser Tommy John, who was roughed up by the Jays to the tune of six earned runs in seven-plus innings, and give the ball to Game 3 winner Mike Mussina. The Jays are faced with a choice between a rematch of Mussina and tough-luck Game 3 loser Dave Steib or entrusting Juan Guzman, who has yet to appear in the series, with a start.