The truth lingered in the background, as Jose Canseco met another throng of note pads and cameras. Mark McGwire noticed the crowd, stopped at his nearby locker and contradicted the company line.
"He's carrying 240 pounds on his back," McGwire said. "I told him that."
So far, this extra McGwire-like weight is not bothering Canseco. He came through again yesterday, collecting four RBI as the Oakland A's rolled to a 7-3 victory over the Orioles.
Mike Moore deserves equal billing because he saved Oakland's weary bullpen. Moore nearly pitched a complete game, baffling Baltimore hitters for 8 2/3 innings. Dennis Eckersley (who else?) eventually secured the final out.
The A's thus won their second consecutive game since McGwire went down with a pulled muscle near his right rib cage. In his absence, the middle of Oakland's lineup suddenly has one giant, red-headed hole.
Yesterday, the hole did not seem so formidable. Harold Baines hit his first home run since Aug. 9. Canseco cranked out RBI as if he operated an assembly line.
This is not an encouraging trend for Minnesota, which still trails the A's by six games. Canseco has 16 RBI in his last eight games, raising his season total to 70 and suggesting McGwire's injury may not ravage this lineup.
Of equal significance, Canseco knocked in runs without swinging for the moon. One ground out and two singles -- he methodically compensated for the loss of McGwire's 93 RBI.
"Jose keeps coming through with big hits with guys on base," second baseman Mike Bordick said. "It's huge. He's giving the team the boost it needs."
Said manager Tony La Russa: "He's in the third spot. That's an important spot. But Jose can hit from here until the end, and if we don't pitch, we don't win."
That's where Moore (13-10) enters the picture. A's relievers were so overworked, minor-leaguer Todd Revenig was called up before yesterday's game. He became the 13th pitcher on Oakland's largest-in-the-universe staff.
Revenig and his colleagues just sat and watched Moore sail along. For the second time in his last three starts, Moore allowed La Russa to ignore his bullpen.
Moore carried a three-hitter into the ninth inning, but three singles knocked him out.
"My philosophy never changes," Moore said. "Every time I go out there, I'm trying to throw nine innings. The last couple of times, I've been in the right place at the right time."
For all of Moore's domination, he spent most of this game locked in a pitcher's duel with Ben McDonald. The A's led 2-1 until they busted loose for four runs in the seventh.
Canseco caused much of the damage, lining a two-run single into left field. He's downplaying the need to replace McGwire, but forget about timidity. This single came on McDonald's first pitch.
"I just told myself to be aggressive," Canseco said. "It seems like I've been hitting with two strikes a lot lately.
Canseco certainly had company in Oakland's 12-hit outburst. The A's played aggressively -- Jerry Browne's sacrifice bunt set up one run, Lance Blankenship's hit-and-run double scored another.
"Guys are really concentrating," Blankenship said. "It's getting to the point where every game is really big. I think we're turning it up a notch."