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Jays HRs Blast Indians


The playoffs haven't even started and already the Indians could be facing a must-win situation.

Pat Hentgen, emotionally spent after seeing his father through a skin-cancer procedure, took a shutout into the ninth inning and Toronto hit four homers Saturday as the Blue Jays beat Cleveland 7-3, leaving the Indians' playoff situation up in the air.

Hentgen (11-12), whose father, Pat, had skin cancer removed on Friday, won for the first time in five starts with perhaps his best outing this season. Entering the ninth, he had allowed five singles but lost a chance at his first shutout in more than two years when Carlos Baerga singled and Alex Ramirez homered.

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  • "It's been a tough day," said Hentgen, who didn't arrive in Cleveland until early Saturday morning.

    Hentgen said doctors were confident they had gotten all the cancer, and that his father's attitude convinced him everything would be all right.

    "He just told me to go out and pitch," Hentgen said.

    In beating Cleveland for the first time since 1997, Hentgen shut down an Indians team which scored its 1,000th run of the season Friday and could have wrapped up home-field advantage in the first round with a win.

    A Cleveland win would have assured the Indians of playing Boston and having home-field advantage in the first round next week. The Indians can still get home-field advantage if Texas loses either of its final two games. The Rangers play at Anaheim Saturday night.

    But the Indians may have to beat David Wells on Sunday if they want to open the postseason in Jacobs Field. One of the playoff possibilities Cleveland faces is opening in New York against the World Series champions.

    "It's a little unnerving," Indians manager Mike Hargrove said of his team's ucertainty. "The frustration builds a little bit. But if the worse thing that happens is we have to open up in New York then that's OK too."

    David Justice, the only Indian with two hits, said home-field advantage may be overrated.

    "We want to win tomorrow, but if we don't it won't be earth shattering," he said. "If we don't, we don't. We'll just take our show on the road."

    Shawn Green, Tony Batista, Willis Otanez and rookie Casey Blake all homered for the Blue Jays. Three of those shots came off Indians starter Jaret Wright, who allowed six runs and seven hits in 2 1-3 innings.

    Wright (8-10) was only scheduled to pitch three innings, but when he left a couple of pitches up in the strike zone, the Blue Jays ended his day a little early.

    "I just made two stupid pitches," he said. "But after the year I've had, I'm just looking at the positives, putting everything behind me, start in the playoff and get it done there."

    The Blue Jays teed off on Wright in the third inning, hitting three homers to score six runs. Wright hadn't given up an earned run in his previous 12 innings in two starts.

    Green made it 2-0 with his 42nd homer, a two-run shot, that snapped his 1-for-18 streak against the Indians this season. Following a walk and single, Indians pitching coach Phil Regan came out to try and settle down Wright.

    But Wright's next pitch was hit over the wall in left by Batista, putting Toronto up 5-0. Otanez then hit his seventh homer to end Wright's afternoon.

    Toronto went ahead 7-0 in the fifth when Blake homered Jim Brower.

    The Blue Jays don't plan to make things any easier for Cleveland on Sunday.

    "The season is not over for us until after tomorrow," Green said, "and we're not going to give anything away."

    Notes

  • Hentgen's last shutout came on June 20, 1997, against Baltimore.
  • During the game, Toronto announced that five of its coaches will not return next season.
  • If he plays Sunday, Tony Fernandez will tie Montreal manager Felipe Alou for the most games played by a Dominican. Fernandez has played 2,081 career games.
  • Some ammunition for Manny Ramirez's AL MVP resume: Cleveland is 35-3 when he homers and 64-20 when he drives in a run.
  • Blake's homer came in his 33rd at-bat.
  • The Blue Jays announced they have picked up the contract option for 2000 on ctcher Darrin Fletcher. Fletcher posted career highs in hits, runs, homers and RBIs this season.
  • Toronto is 31-14 in its last 45 road games.
  • Cleveland's Jim Thome is 0-for-11 with five strikeouts in the series.

    ©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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