What would you expect from an autumn game in which three key performers were a pinch-runner, the player in the on-deck circle and a guy who went 0-for-6?
Try 14 innings for openers. Then add a game time roughly equivalent to a pair of marathons (4 hours, 21 minutes).
Throw in 20 deserted runners, a couple of basepath blunders and 385 deep knee bends for umpire Mike Reilly, who was in charge of calling strikes (251) and balls (134). For best results mix with a touch of pennant fever.
Get the idea?
By the time Steve Scarsone slid across home plate with the game-winner, the only other runs of the game had been scored the night before. At two minutes after midnight this morning the Orioles had a 2-1 win over the Kansas City Royals, remaining four games behind the division-leading Toronto Blue Jays and one game ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers.
The run carried across the plate by Scarsone was hardly routine, and Royals manager Hal McRae can be excused for thinking the opportunity never should have been available to the Orioles. "We gave the game away," said McRae. "We played 14 innings because we ran bases poorly."
That could not be said about Scarsone's journey after he entered the game to run for Leo Gomez after the third baseman's third single of the night. On a hit-and-run play with Tim Hulett at-bat, Scarsone never broke stride en route to third base on a line drive that deflected off losing pitcher Bill Sampen (0-1) and trickled through the area normally occupied by the shortstop.
"He made a great play," said Orioles manager Johnny Oates. "When he went, I thought it was going to be bang-bang, but they didn't even have a play. He made a good turn [at second base] and showed a lot of acceleration."
On a night when 10 pitchers combined for an 0.99 earned run average, Scarsone found himself in the limelight for running from first to third -- and then scoring on Brady (0-for-6) Anderson's sacrifice fly.
"I had the shortstop [Curtis Wilkerson, who was covering second base] in front of me," said Scarsone. "When I saw the ball hit the pitcher, I took the chance."
"That's something you can't teach," said Orioles first-base coach Davey Lopes, who as the team's baserunning instructor can appreciate Scarsone's contribution. "He showed very good instincts on that play."
As it turned out, getting home with the winning run was even tougher for the infielder the Orioles obtained from Philadelphia for Juan Bell -- and called up as emergency protection when Bill Ripken was injured two weeks ago.
Anderson's sacrifice fly was actually a line drive and it reached right fielder Kevin Koslofski in a hurry. "I was trying to get a good lead, anticipating a wild pitch and he [Koslofski] was getting ready to make the catch when I got back to the base," said Scarsone, who didn't get the best possible start after tagging up.
That's where David Segui, the next scheduled hitter, got into the act. Koslofski made a strong throw to the plate and catcher Brent Mayne was in position to block Scarsone's path to the plate.
Segui came from the on-deck circle and signaled to Scarsone to slide to the outside of home plate. "That's part of your job [as the next hitter]," Segui said, deflecting any credit.
Using Segui as his personal traffic director, Scarsone slid away from Mayne and beyond the plate, reaching out and touching it with his hand as he went past. "I knew it was going to be close," said Scarsone. "David's signal helped me a lot."
For Scarsone, it was his first chance to feel part of the Orioles' attempt to overtake the Blue Jays. "To be able to help out in a game like this means a lot," he said.
How much last night's win means to the Orioles is yet to be decided, but suffice it to say it would not have been a pretty sight had they lost. They had gotten eight hits from the 3-4-5 batters in the lineup, but the net result was only one run.
They had received a marvelous performance from starting pitcher Arthur Rhodes [7 1/3 innings, six hits, one walk, one run]. And relievers Todd Frohwirth, Jim Poole and Storm Davis had combined for 6 2/3 scoreless innings before a verdict had been rendered.
"Every time we got runners on base, it was with two outs," said Oates, "but our pitchers hung in there. We're not scoring runs right now, but we're making good use of the ones we're getting."
For the Royals, the night was exactly the opposite. They didn't have as many opportunities as the Orioles, but the ones they had screamed for attention.
There were runners on second and third and one out, when Gary Thurman lined to Gomez at third for an unassisted double play, catching ex-Oriole Bob Melvin off base.
An inning later David Howard got a leadoff triple, when Joe Orsulak couldn't make a diving catch in right field, and then had trouble locating the ball. Keith Miller then hit a bouncer back to Rhodes and when the play was over everybody was out.
Howard was caught in a rundown between third and home that required just one throw, and then Miller was hung up when he tried to advance to second on the play. "Our baserunning was atrocious," said McRae. "There is no excuse."
When the Royals finally did score, on a single by Thurman and a pinch-hit triple by Oriole nemesis Mike Macfarlane in the eighth, they had the go-ahead run on third with one out.
But Frohwirth got Miller to bounce to Gomez and then struck out Juan Samuel to end the inning.
It took another six innings before either team could mount a serious threat. That's when the pinch-runner (Scarsone), the player in the on-deck circle (Segui) and the guy who was 0-for-6 (Anderson) finally turned out the lights.