The Orioles needed a hero last night.
The usual suspects were in place.
There was Brady Anderson. He gets all the attention. He has the sideburns, doesn't he?
He has sideburns and a little style. He's Brady. And he was supposed to be a star all his life. And then he wasn't a star. In fact, his career was in such bad shape, he almost went to Japan before this season.
"That would have been something, wouldn't it?" Anderson was saying before last night's game. "I'd have gone to Japan, hit 30 homers and everyone would have said, 'Look at that Japanese baseball. The guy's a .219 hitter, and he hits 30 homers.' "
Brady grew the sideburns, didn't go to Japan, saved his career, made the All-Star team and is about to become the second 20-homer, 50-steal guy in the history of the American League. (Rickey Henderson was the first.)
And yet, he may not even be the MVP of his ballclub.
Maybe Mike Devereaux would do it. He could be your MVP. Ask around the clubhouse, and it's pretty well split.
Johnny Oates, being diplomatic, said he'd split his vote between them.
"How do you choose?" he said. "Brady has scored about as many runs  as Devo has driven in . They've both played great defense for me.
L "Without one or the other, I'd hate to think where we'd be."
Maybe you've watched the ballclub recently, and so you know where the Orioles would be. One story of this Orioles' season is how well Anderson and Devereaux have played. Another part of the story is how feeble most of the rest of the offense has been.
For about the first time this season, Anderson and Devereaux had an off week in the same week -- it was last week -- and the Orioles lost five of six and turned a tight divisional race into something not unlike the impossible dream.
Maybe somebody else had to step up. It could be Rip van Ripken.
Coming off his long summer's slumber, he hit the home run Monday night to provide the winning margin. (Anderson hit the other homer, of course.)
Ripken extended his streak to five consecutive hits after his first two at-bats last night. He scored the only run the Orioles managed in regulation. He still was crouching and still lunging, except that he was hitting. He was hitting so well that in the 10th inning, they walked him intentionally. He was the old Rip. Well, he was awake anyway.
They walked him because Devereaux was standing on second base and first was open.
Devereaux got there on his third hit of the night, coming off a 4-for-30 stretch that had just about killed the team off.
He was trying to pick up for Anderson, who was leaving runners on base like he was Glenn Davis (who got two hits last night) or somebody. Anderson stranded four runners in the first six innings.
That's the way it has been these days for the Orioles. They get a brilliant start from Arthur Lee Rhodes, who pitched so well you can't help but think what a future he has. He got the curveball over the plate and the fastball was taking off, and it looked the Royals would never score against him. In fact, the Royals were swinging the bats against him like the recent Orioles swing them against everybody and anybody. But the Royals got a run in the eighth, and Rhodes was gone. The teams played on.
As you watch the Orioles, you wonder how they ever made it this far. You watched them last night, and you wondered how they'd ever score again. Gentle Glenn Davis almost did it. He hit a foul ball about 400 feet in the 10th, just to the wrong side of the left-field foul pole. It sounded loud. It was an explosion for the Orioles, who had scored 16 runs in eight games. He was almost a hero.
They played on.
Scoreboard watching didn't help. Toronto came back from a 3-0 deficit in the first to beat Cleveland. Milwaukee won easily.
Meantime, Kansas City kept getting runners picked off third base, keeping the Orioles alive.
And so they played on.
They went to a second seventh-inning stretch in the 14th inning at Camden Yards, as it became a Late Night With the Orioles party.
The standing-room-only folks were invited to come down and find a place among the deserted seats. The Orioles wouldn't even charge them extra. Wait till next season.
And still they played.
Who would step up? Leo Gomez singled to center. Steve Scarsone pinch-ran. Hulett hammered a single off pitcher Bill Sampen's leg and Scarsone boldly raced to third. And then it was Brady, 0-for-6 on the night, with the game-winner, a sacrifice fly. There was your hero. Who else?