Baseball: Henderson helps clip Blue Jays wings: Richard Weekes on the Oakland A's rearguard action and Barry Bonds' awakening for Pittsburgh in baseball's play-offs

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The Independent Online
RICKEY HENDERSON'S base stealing rattled the Toronto Blue Jays yesterday as the Oakland Athletics bounced back from Sunday's devastating 7-6 defeat to win game five 6-2 and cut Toronto's lead in the best-of-seven American League championship series to 3-2.

The teams now return east for game six in the SkyDome tomorrow, with the Blue Jays still requiring only one victory to become the first Canadian team to reach the World Series.

In the National League championship series, Barry Bonds finally awoke from his post-season slumbers and kept Pittsburgh's World Series hopes alive as the Pirates hammered the Atlanta Braves 7-1 on Sunday to cut their deficit to 3-2.

The teams play game six at Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium tonight, when Tom Glavine, the loser in game three, will try again to nail down the victory that will take the Braves and their tomahawk-chopping fans back to the Series for the second year running.

Yesterday Henderson's running on the basepaths induced two throwing errors from the Toronto fielders. They tried to get the fleet-footed Henderson at first base, and threw the ball into right field. They tried to get him at third base, and threw it into left.

The Blue Jays never quite caught Henderson and neither did they catch up with Dave Stewart, Oakland's starting pitcher. Henderson had plenty of support. Ruben Sierra hit a two-run homer in the first inning that began the downfall of David Cone, the Toronto pitcher who had won game two.

Jerry Browne, back in the line-up at third base because Carney Lansford was injured, went 4 for 4, drove in two runs and scored twice. Henderson, Sierra and Browne had all eight of Oakland's hits.

Their efforts gave the A's a 6-1 lead after six innings. That was exactly the score by which they had led game four on Sunday before Toronto stunned Oakland's normally invincible relief pitcher, Dennis Eckersley, by taking him for four runs before winning the game 7-6 in the 11th inning.

This time, the A's did not let it get away as Stewart, showing he still has the temperament for the big occasion, improved his play-off record to 6-0.

In Pittsburgh, Bonds, who had been booed by his home fans on Saturday, quickly had the 52,929 crowd at Three Rivers Stadium on their feet as he drove in a run in the Pirates' four-run first inning. He later got another base hit, and broke up a Braves rally with a breathtaking running, diving catch in the fourth inning.

Bonds said he had received a lot of encouragement from fans who said his slump was about to be over. 'I hit that double in the first and I rounded second base and I said (to the fans), 'You're right, it's over.'

The Pittsburgh manager, Jim Leyland, added: 'I wasn't as impressed with his two hits as with the catch. It was the best I've seen.'

Atlanta's starter Steve Avery did not survive the first inning. But Pittsburgh's starter Bob Walk, whom the Braves released eight years ago after deciding he would never mature into a consistent major-league pitcher, threw a complete game.

Atlanta's manager Bobby Cox said: 'Walk was outstanding. I didn't expect him to go the distance.'