Dwight Evans limped out of the Orioles' training room with ice packs on his back, thigh and Achilles' tendon. This happens when you're 39 and still playing baseball.
Before the game, fully aware the club was scuffling for healthy players, Evans had said to manager John Oates, "Put me in there and see what we can do."
What Evans did was cap one of the greatest comebacks in Orioles history. His solo home run in the seventh tied the score at 8 after the Orioles had stormed back from an 8-1 deficit.
The net result, however, was a 9-8 loss to the Kansas City Royals last night when Danny Tartabull homered off Mark Williamson in the 10th inning.
As comebacks go, this ranks among the Orioles' most dramatic. It was the sixth time in club history they overcame a seven-run disadvantage to tie the score.
"This was a good game for us," Evans said. "We battled back. You come back from 8-1, you're doing something."
Four previous times the comeback translated into a victory. The only other loss was in 1962 when the Orioles trailed the Cleveland Indians, 7-0, tied it, only to lose, 10-7.
The Orioles' comeback of all comebacks was in the long ago of 1956 when they closed an eight-run deficit and beat the Red Sox, 11-10, at Fenway Park. Evans, the treasured relic, says he did not play in that game.
Evans had a season-high three hits last night, a single and an RBI double in addition to the home run. He nows leads the Orioles in game-tying or go-ahead RBIs with 11 to Mike Devereaux's 10 and is tied with Frank Howard and Jim Rice for 29th place on the all-time home run list at 382.
"Dewey knows how to play the game," Oates said. "He pays attention. That's one reason he's been around this long."
In the dugout before Evans went to face Luis Aquino, Oates heard him talking to himself, reviewing scouting reports on the Kansas City reliever. What to look for. Where it was likely to be. Delivery points.
"He has an idea of what's going to happen before he gets to the plate," Oates said.
Evans said, "You can never prepare yourself enough. You've still got to hit it, but you like to know what you're facing."
The evening started with the Orioles facing two-time Cy Young Award winner Bret Saberhagen. The game appeared all but over in the third inning when George Brett and Tartabull touched Bob Milacki for successive two-run doubles for a 4-0 K.C. lead.
But the key confrontation was Milacki vs. Kirk Gibson, with two outs and two on, before Brett doubled. Gibson worked the count to 3-and-2 and finally walked after Milacki threw him 10 pitches.
"Sometimes you get that call, other times you don't," Milacki said, referring to umpire Rocky Roe's ball call on a 2-and-2 pitch. "It might have gone to 3-and-2 earlier if Gibson hadn't helped me out by fouling off a couple high sliders."
Oates said, "You hate to put yourself in position where one call can affect the outcome of the game. Umpires are human and they're going to miss calls."
In the fifth, the Royals raised their lead to 8-1 on Tartabull's first home run, with two aboard. Despite a sore hand that caused him to miss nine of the previous 12 games, Tartabull had a career-high six RBIs.
"I was just a piece of the puzzle," Tartabull said, claiming his hand where he was struck by a pitch May 27 was fine. "Tomorrow night it will be someone else."
In the bottom of the fifth, the Orioles began their comeback, pounding Saberhagen for five runs. Sam Horn followed his home run the inning before with a run-scoring double, leaving him 6-for-12 lifetime (including three homers) against the redoubtable Saberhagen and with a .433 average with five homers and 13 RBIs in 10 games against Kansas City since the start of 1990.
"He's a great pitcher," Horn said. "You want me to say something bad against a great pitcher just because I've had success against him?"
Now it was 8-7, Royals. In the seventh, Evans tied it. In the 10th, Tartabull won it with his leadoff home run off Williamson, who entered with a string of 16 2/3 scoreless innings.
"You got to be down and off the plate against a fastball hitter like that," Williamson said. "Not something he can handle. It was up, way up. The thought process was there. I knew what I wanted to do. If it had been outside and down, I would have tipped my hat to him if he had hit it."
Oates said he doesn't prefer a 9-8 loss over an 8-0 loss. All he knows is that it was the Orioles' fourth straight defeat. The club is 4-13 in one-run games, including 1-8 under Oates. Eight of the 12 losses under Oates have been by one run.
"Coming back from 8-1 against Saberhagen shows this club has integrity," Oates said. "A lot of clubs would have gone through the motions and mailed it in."