CLEVELAND -- For Eric Davis, just putting on the uniform each day is enough to keep him going, which is why he reduced last night's home run to little more than "the icing on the cake."
In another strange twist here, it became the glue that held together the Orioles' 4-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians in Game 5, sending the American League Championship Series back to Camden Yards bathed in a brighter glow of hope.
With his club holding a 2-0 lead and memories of the past, when the Indians seemed to catch every break in every inconceivable manner, Davis led off the ninth inning with a pinch-hit home run. The next three batters reached and another run scored, one swing from Davis opening the floodgates.
His shot to left, on a 1-2 offering from reliever Paul Assenmacher, became critical after the Indians rallied against closer Randy Myers in the ninth. Without that cushion, the Orioles' season might have splattered over Jacobs Field.
"I thought the home run Eric hit wasn't a bad pitch," Assenmacher said.
It did good things for the Orioles. And not just on the scoreboard.
Davis had his 11th chemotherapy treatment after Game 2 last Thursday, then joined the team in Cleveland and played Saturday, going 0-for-4. He hasn't started since, and came into last night just 3-for-20 in the postseason.
He showed last night that he can provide more to the Orioles than just inspiration.
"I know it made a lot of us happy over here, with what he's been through," said manager Davey Johnson.
"Obviously, it was the winning run, but all of us were just tickled that he made a big contribution."
Davis had just missed connecting off Assenmacher in Game 4, pulling a fastball foul. He figured the left-hander would come with a slider last night, and he produced his second homer since rejoining the club after colon-cancer surgery. The other came Sept. 27 in Milwaukee, after another chemotherapy treatment.
"I knew he was going to throw me some kind of breaking ball," Davis said. "The first couple were down. He just got that one up a little bit."
Davis was sent in to hit for Harold Baines, who had singled in the fourth inning and was 5-for-14 in the series.
"Harold's a great player. I was kind of surprised, especially because we were winning," said Davis, who gave the Orioles their second pinch homer this year, the other by Jeff Reboulet on July 6 in Detroit.
"I got the call and just went up there and tried to get a good pitch and hit it hard."
Johnson said, "Harold Baines is a great hitter, and I know a lot of people were questioning it. But I have a lot of faith in Eric."
No matter how hard the numbers try to tug him in the other direction.
Davis had been 1-for-11 in the ALCS, but said he was feeling good and swinging the bat well.
"I've just been missing some pitches," he said.
By taking hold of one last night, Davis had his first postseason home run since the 1990 World Series while with the Cincinnati Reds. It also was the second pinch homer of his career.
Asked what it all meant to him, given the night's circumstances and the battle he has been fighting since the June surgery, Davis said, "That means we're going back to put our white uniforms on. That was our goal after we lost the first two ballgames here."
When Davis returned to a jubilant dugout, he engaged in a handshake with close friend Tony Tarasco that broke off into something so involved that it lasted almost as long as the at-bat.
"I'd say about 80 percent of the team knows it," said Tarasco, who isn't active for this series, unless you count the gyrations with Davis. "It's a shake -- and some fries."
Davis is scheduled to undergo another treatment Friday, but as he has said so many times, to so many people, "This is the best therapy for me."
And he wasn't talking about the home run. It's just putting on the uniform, just being able to go out and play.
Pub Date: 10/14/97