From the minute he walked through the clubhouse door, it was obvious that Rick Sutcliffe was on a mission.
The veteran right-hander had a job to do and, despite the most trying of circumstances, he was determined to do his part. Two days before, Sutcliffe's mother, Louise Bloss, passed away.
He flew home to Kansas City, Mo., to help with funeral arrangements and called Orioles manager Johnny Oates.
"He said 'I'm pitching,' " said Oates. "I told him no, that I had another starter [Anthony Telford], but he said he'd be here, and he was going to pitch."
Sutcliffe pitched eight innings, allowing just four hits as the Orioles beat the California Angels, 9-1. It was the fifth straight game started by Sutcliffe (13-11) won by the Orioles, who had lost seven of their past nine and 11 of the previous 17.
Oates did not expect to get that much from Sutcliffe -- but he wasn't surprised.
"The guy has the ability to zero in on a pitching assignment better than anybody I've ever been around," said Oates.
After a game, win or lose, good performance or bad, Sutcliffe always makes himself available to the media. But last night was an exception. He politely declined to talk about his performance.
"I'm sure it was an emotional night for him," said Oates. "I'm sure a lot of things were going through his mind. The only time he spoke to me all night was when I asked him [after the eighth inning] if he'd had enough. He just said 'yep,' and put on his jacket."
After going through the entire month of July without a win, Sutcliffe has made a remarkable turnaround -- just in time for the Orioles. He has won his past three decisions and in his past five starts he's compiled a 1.98 ERA.
"It seems like every time he's pitched this month we've needed a win," said Oates. And each time Sutcliffe has responded.
The Orioles signed him in the off-season with the hope he could win 15 games, give them 200 innings (he reached 198 last night) -- and pitch big games.
Last night might not have been the biggest, but it undoubtedly was the most difficult.