1993 ALCS: The Blue Jays Turn Back The White Sox

The Toronto Blue Jays were the defending World Series champions. The Chicago White Sox were in the postseason for the first time since the 1983 ALCS. In that regard, perhaps it’s not surprising that their matchup in the 1993 ALCS was defined by the Blue Jays being the team that avoided key mistakes and made the most significant plays, as they survived a competitive series.

You can read more about the season-long paths Toronto and Chicago took to win their respective divisions and about their key players at the links below. This article will focus squarely on the games of the 1993 American League Championship Series.


Homefield advantage for the postseason was done on a rotation basis, so even though Toronto had 95 wins, while Chicago won 94, it was the AL West’s turn to host. So this series opened up on the South Side on a Tuesday night.

Each team had their ace ready, eventual Cy Young winner Jack McDowell for the White Sox and Juan Guzman for the Blue Jays. Chicago had Guzman on the ropes twice in the early innings. But a leadoff double from Ellis Burks was wasted in the second. Guzman then pitched around a pair of walks in the third and the game stayed scoreless.

Toronto broke through in the top of the fourth. With two on and two out, Ed Sprague came to the plate. A utility player whose improbable home run in Game 2 of the 1992 World Series turned momentum in the Blue Jays’ favor, Sprague again came through. This time it was a triple down the rightfield line that picked up both runs.

Guzman did not have his good stuff and Chicago bounced right back. With the help of a walk and an error, the White Sox had runners on second and third with one out. Ozzie Guillen lined a single into right to tie up the game. After Guillen stole second, he scored on a base hit from Tim Raines. Chicago had a 3-2 lead.

The rally continued. MVP first baseman Frank Thomas worked a walk. A wild pitch and an intentional walk loaded the bases with two outs. Burks had a chance to break the game open and he hit a line drive…but at first baseman John Olerud. The Blue Jays escaped trailing by just a run.

And they got to McDowell again in the top of the fifth. With two outs and a man aboard, Joe Carter legged out an infield hit. Olerud ripped a double into the right-center gap to score both runs and put Toronto up 4-3. Paul Molitor went the other way with a single to right and it was 5-3.

Chicago threatened again in the home half of the sixth with two singles and a walk. But in between, Raines was cut down attempting to steal. Burks had another opportunity with two outs, but flew out to end the inning.

With neither ace sharp, no one could get comfortable, so the Toronto bats went to work at taking out some insurance. With two outs in the seventh, Olerud and Molitor delivered again. The former singled and the latter homered. McDowell was gone. And this game was all but over. Duane Ward came out of the Blue Jay bullpen and cleaned up the 7-3 win.

Guzman might have been the Toronto ace, but no one in baseball had a big-game reputation like Dave Stewart. A cornerstone of the great Oakland A’s teams from 1988-92 and one who had bedeviled the Jays in the postseason before, Stewart came north of the border in free agency for 1993. And he had the ball on his hand for Wednesday afternoon’s Game 2.

Toronto quickly got him a run, going to work against Chicago’s Alex Fernandez. An error by Thomas started the game. A base hit by Devon White set up Roberto Alomar to drive home the run with a productive ground ball out.

Stewart, uncharacteristically wild, gave it right back with three walks and a wild pitch. But the White Sox, with an opportunity to get a lot more, couldn’t get a hit of their own and the inning ended in a 1-1 tie. They missed another chance in the second when Lance Johnson hit a leadoff double and was bunted up to third. Guillen and Raines were unable to drive in the lead run.

Toronto worked some two-out magic in the top of the fourth. After Molitor kept the inning alive with a double to right, Tony Fernandez singled him home. A decision to go for the out at the plate let Fernandez move up to second. A throwing error by second baseman Joey Cora let another run in. A game that had seen Chicago with most of the good early opportunities also had them trailing 3-1.

Alex Fernandez gamely kept his team in it, working out of a jam in the sixth and keeping the score 3-1. The White Sox got another big chance in the bottom of the inning.

Thomas and Ventura led off with singles. Burks drew a walk. The bases were loaded with no one out. Stewart dug in. He got Dan Pasqua on a fly ball to center to shallow to score a run. Lance Johnson popped out. Warren Newson bounced back to Stewart. No runs.

Stewart turned matters over the Blue Jay bullpen. Young Al Leiter, along with Ward, finished up the 3-1 win. Toronto had swept both games on the road. There was little reason for anyone to think baseball would return to the South Side before next spring. But these White Sox didn’t roll over when they went on the road.

The Blue Jays came out in Friday night’s Game 3 and immediately put pressure on young Chicago starter Wilson Alvarez, two on and one out in the bottom of the first. But Wilson induced Tony Fernandez to ground into a double play and kill the threat.

In the top of the third, Chicago went to work on Toronto’s reliable Pat Hentgen. Raines and Cora singled to right. Thomas, known for his muscle, beat out an infield hit to bring in the game’s first run. A walk to Robin Ventura loaded the bases. Burks was coming to the plate.

After his numerous missed chances thus far, it had to be a relief for Burks to rip a two-run single. After a walk loaded the bases, Lance Johnson hit another two-run single. It was 5-0.

With Alvarez sharp, this was more than enough. Toronto picked up a run in the third and loaded up the bases with one out in the fourth. But when Alvarez again got Tony Fernandez, this time with a big strikeout, the starting pitcher had been pressured for the last time. He cruised to a complete-game victory, 6-1 and put his team back in the series.

The fourth starters took the mound on Saturday night, Todd Stottlemyre for Toronto and Jason Bere for Chicago. It was a game were both teams would have to lean on their deep lineups and it was the White Sox who struck first. Burks singled to lead off the second, Lance Johnson homered and Chicago had a 2-zip lead.

Toronto countered in the home half of the third. Borders started the inning with a single. Devon White worked a one-out walk. Roberto Alomar doubled to left, Joe Carter singled and the Jays were up 3-2. A hit batsman and a walk loaded up the bases. Chicago manager Gene Lamont, trailing in the series, had no time to waste. He went to the bullpen.

Tim Belcher, normally a starter and a part of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ team that stunned Oakland in the 1988 World Series, came on. Belcher struck out Tony Fernandez, got Sprague to ground to third and kept the White Sox in this game.

Pitching settled in until the top of the sixth when Thomas homered to tie it up 3-3. After two more walks, Lance Johnson came up with two down and delivered again. This time it was a triple that gave the White Sox a 5-3 lead.

There was no room to get comfortable though, not when Henderson walked and moved up on a wild pitch in the bottom of the same inning. Alomar’s two-out double cut the lead to 5-4.

Leiter was on in relief for the seventh. After Guillen beat out an infield hit and Raines singled, there were runners on first and third. Cora was at the plate and he picked up the run with a productive out. It was valuable insurance. Chicago added one more run in the ninth. They got good bullpen work from Belcher, Kirk McCaskill and closer Roberto Hernandez. With the 7-4 win, the White Sox tied the series and ensured they would at least get back home.

Windy City sports fans had reason to be in good spirits for Game 5 on late Sunday afternoon. The Bears started the day off by beating the Eagles. Now McDowell would take the mound and try and give the White Sox control of this ALCS.

But for the second straight outing, the ace was no mystery to the Blue Jay lineup. Henderson greeted him with a double, stole third and then scored on McDowell’s own throwing error. Molitor started a rally in the second with a double, took third on a base hit from Tony Fernandez and scored on Sprague’s sac fly. Alomar led off the third with a walk, stole second, took third on Carter’s grounder to the right side and came in on a base hit from Olerud. After a wild pitch and a walk, McDowell was unceremoniously gone.

Jose DeLeon temporarily kept the score at 3-0, but Toronto kept coming in the fourth. Devon White doubled to right, Alomar singled and now it was 4-zip.

Guzman was back on the mound for Toronto and in control. Burks touched the ace for a home run in the fifth, but that was all Guzman allowed in seven innings of work. The Blue Jays added a run in the seventh and took a 5-1 lead into the ninth.

Ventura hit a two-run homer with two outs against Ward to cut the lead to 5-3. That wasn’t alarming, but a walk to Burks allowed the legendary Bo Jackson to come to the plate as the tying run. The only window of hope Chicago fans had seen all day was quickly slammed shut when Bo struck out.

Even allowing the disappointing performance from McDowell, the White Sox couldn’t be all that disappointed. They were still going home with a chance and that’s not something too many people would have dared predict back on Friday night. But Dave Stewart was waiting.

Alex Fernandez again had the task of facing off with Stewart on Tuesday evening. The young pitcher hurt himself early on, issuing a walk and hitting a batter to give Toronto a second-inning opportunity. The Blue Jays cashed it in, with a sac bunt from Tony Fernandez and a base hit from Borders that scored both runs.

Guillen touched Stewart in the third with a one-out double. After Raines singled to left and Stewart hit a batter of his own, the bases were loaded. Thomas was at the plate. Stewart walked the soon-to-be American League MVP and future Hall of Famer. Ventura’s RBI groundball tied up the game.

But what Ventura had earned with his bat, he immediately gave back with his glove—an error that opened the top of the fourth. Sprague singled. There were runners on the corners. Alex Fernandez got what looked an inning-ending double play groundball off the bat of Borders. But on the relay, Cora threw the ball away and the go-ahead run came in.

Toronto threatened to break it open in the fifth when two singles and a double steal brought Olerud to the plate with one out. He popped it up and Chicago was still within a run.

Stewart was settled in and the 3-2 lead held to the bottom of the seventh. After a leadoff walk, Guillen bunted the tying run into scoring position. Raines came to the plate. He hit the ball on the screws to second base. But it ended up a line drive double play. Sometimes, it’s just not your night.

Alex Fernandez had again kept his team in the game though, and it was still 3-2 in the ninth. But Toronto opened it up against the bullpen. Devon White homered for a huge insurance run. Then with two outs, Carter singled, Olerud reached on an error, and Molitor lashed a triple. It was 6-2, and all but over.

The White Sox picked up a run in the ninth, but Ward closed it out. When Raines hit a fly ball to right and Carter gloved it, Toronto had won their second straight America League pennant.

Stewart was named ALCS MVP, the second time in his career he had won the honor. But there were other good candidates. Guzman also won twice. The fact Toronto’s aces pitched well, getting all four Blue Jays wins, while McDowell struggled, was the defining difference in this series.

Stewart and Guzman’s composite pitching lines were almost identical. Each gave up three earned runs. Stewart went 13.1 innings, while Guzman went an even 13. I guess that extra out, along with the fact Stewart pitched the clincher, is enough to make him the right MVP choice in a close call.

Offensively, Devon White had collected twelve hits, including the home run that all but sealed the pennant. Molitor, Alomar, Olerud and Tony Fernandez were all consistent at the plate throughout the six games.

On the White Sox’ side, Raines had twelve hits of his own. If his line drive in the latter stages of Game 6 meets a better fate, perhaps he ends up MVP of this series. Burks went 7-for-23. Thomas was 6-for-17, but Toronto made a conscious decision not to let “The Big Hurt” beat them and Thomas walked ten times. Alex Fernandez had the hardest luck—15 innings pitched, a 1.80 series ERA…and two losses to show for it.

Toronto wasn’t done. They went on the World Series to meet the Philadelphia Phillies. The Blue Jays won another six-game series that was again defined by their ability to get the biggest hits at the biggest times—including the walk off home run that won it all.