Manager John Oates tumbled into bed at 5 a.m. after the Orioles returned from Minnesota yesterday and woke up six hours later feeling very much his age.
Turning to his wife Gloria, Oates said, "I'm glad I'm not a player."
The more he thought about it, the more Oates felt the long night might have taken its toll on Dwight Evans, too. He decided to give the 39-year-old rightfielder a respite when the Orioles opened a seven-game homestand last night.
Hearing that when he arrived at Memorial Stadium, Evans protested. Oates held firm. Joe Orsulak started in rightfield against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Circumstances soon forced Oates to change his mind. After first baseman Randy Milligan sprained his left thumb in a diving, unsuccessful attempt to keep Rance Mulliniks' grounder from going into right for an RBI single in the third inning, Oates made the move he hadn't planned to make.
Milligan came out. David Segui went from leftfield to first base. Orsulak went from right to left and Evans was inserted in right.
The fifth found Evans at the plate with the bases loaded. He banged a two-run single to send the Orioles on their way to a 6-4 victory over Toronto, breaking their three-game losing streak. Another two-run single moments later by Leo Gomez brought in runs Nos. 5 and 6.
The RBIs moved Evans past Orlando Cepeda into 49th place on the all-time list with 1,366. Evans didn't want to hear this, but the productive single made him 3-for-4 this season with the bases loaded.
"Don't tell me," Evans said, obviously wary of good numbers as well as bad.
When Oates told him he was going in, Evans trotted to the clubhouse to get loose. That consisted of running around the chairs, laundry baskets and trash barrels.
"I started to do that when I was first used as a DH by Boston," Evans said.
In the eighth, with the Orioles ahead by two, Evans made a key throw from rightfield to hold Joe Carter to a single leading off the inning. The crowd of 26,539 roared in appreciation.
"He's a gamer," Oates said. "But I want to be sure he's around in August and September. I don't want to wear him out."
Evans revels in coming to the plate with the bases loaded. He knew little about Toronto's relief pitcher, Mike Timlin, other than "he has a heavy sinker and a good slider."
"I hadn't faced the kid before," Evans said. "But a situation like that, bases loaded, is good for a hitter. You have the upper hand. He can't afford to walk you, so he has to throw strikes. Whether I actually am or not, I feel I'm in control."
Gomez, just up from Triple A Rochester, started at third base and had a triple and scored a run in addition to his two-run single. When Oates was told by the club's minor-league people that Gomez was "the hottest hitter in the organization," he thought it wise to put him in the lineup without delay.
"When you're seeing the ball good, it looks big, like a basketball," said Gomez, who batted .313 with six home runs and 16 RBIs in his last 18 games at Rochester.
"All we've been lacking the last two weeks is big hits," Oates said. "We got them this time. That's all we need to put us over the top. We didn't play poorly in losing three in Minnesota. We just lacked clutch hits."
Bob Milacki worked into the seventh to pick up his first major-league win as a starter since last Sept. 30. His eight strikeouts were the most by an Orioles pitcher this year.
"I hung in there after giving up those four runs early," Milacki said. "I did some things I hadn't done in a while, like striking out guys when I needed to."
He needed to in the third after the Blue Jays took a 4-2 lead. Two runs were in and there was a runner on first base when Milacki struck out two in succession. He had no beef, though, when Oates lifted him in the seventh.
"I was getting up in the pitch count," said Milacki, who threw 116 pitches, 74 for strikes. "I haven't had that many this year. My most were 90 my last time out in Boston."
Milacki's pitching and the big hits took the glare off Segui.
He lost one fly ball in the changing sky, and it dropped over his head for a double, driving in a run and leading to another. An inning later, the third, a line drive bounced off his glove for an error, leading to an unearned run. He then kicked another ball that was rolling along the fence for error No. 2. He was delighted to seek refuge at first base.
"Leftfield is not easy in this park at that time of night," Oates said. "I've seen veteran outfielders have the same trouble."
Said Segui, "The fact we won lightens things a bit." When someone mentioned that he had a sacrifice fly, Segui permitted himself a slight smile.
"If you dig deep enough, you can find something positive," he said.