KANSAS CITY — When the Royal collapse came Sunday night, Dan Quisenberry was still in the Kansas City bullpen. There would be no pop Quiz in this ninth inning, just a test of wills--a gallant Charlie Leibrandt trying to come up with one last answer against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The left-handed Leibrandt, who had a two-hit shutout with three outs to play, never got it. And only when it was too late, after the Cardinals had made all the right choices in a four-run rally that expelled the Royals, 4-2, only then did Kansas City Manager Dick Howser summon Quisenberry.
Quisenberry has saved more games than any American League pitcher in the last four seasons and in five out of the last six. He had 37 saves in 1985.
But last weekend against Toronto, when Leibrandt had taken a shutout into the ninth against the Blue Jays and lost, Quisenberry gave up the game-winning hit to Al Oliver. This time, he didn't get the call until after it no longer mattered whether Howser requested Dan or Janie Quisenberry.
"It hurts about the same," Quisenberry said, when asked whether it was tougher to lose on the mound or in the bullpen. "They both hurt.
"After the double (by Terry Pendleton, which cleared the bases), I'm like my pitch--I'm sinking."
For the Royals, who seemingly need to bleed first before they beat you--they fell behind the Blue Jays, 3 games to 1, before beating Toronto three straight to win the American League pennant--the ache from this one may last longer than any other.
No team in the last 46 seasons has taken a two-run lead into the ninth inning of a World Series game and lost it.
"The toughest way to lose a ballgame is when you lose it in the ninth," said George Brett, who had done all he could to help the Royals win it in the first eight, doubling home a run in the fourth and making a diving stop of Tommy Herr's smash in the sixth.
"I'd rather we got beat, 6-1, say we got our butts beat and go get 'em tomorrow. These are killers."
But Brett wasn't about to stick a knife in Howser.
"What do you want me to tell you, that Dick did a (bleep) job?" Brett said. "I'm not the manager. Somebody tried to bait me before.
"My job is to decide whether to swing at a slider or dive at a ground ball. I never second-guess Dick Howser, and I never second-guess Sparky Anderson when I play against him. That's their job, and they've been around a lot longer than I have."
Center fielder Willie Wilson, who had whiffed his way through his last World Series--he struck out a record dozen times in the 1980 Series against Philadelphia--was asked if he kept looking into the Royal dugout, waiting for Howser to emerge to replace Leibrandt.
Wilson, who had singled twice, stolen a base and scored the first Kansas City run, shook his head.
"Nah, I wasn't looking for anything," he said. "I was just trying to get one more out. Hopefully, they would hit it to me.
"We got 20-something outs, and all we needed was one more.
"A tough way to lose. Real tough. But maybe we can do the impossible."
The question in the Kansas City clubhouse was why Howser had not done the expected and brought in Quisenberry.
"I think it was Charlie's game to win or lose," Quisenberry said. "He's been great at pitching out of jams, and he deserved a chance to win or lose.
"I don't think I'm so big I should tell the manager when I should pitch. . . . I'm his tool, to use when he sees fit."
In the past, Howser could put the Royals on automatic pilot with Quisenberry. Not so this season, despite the 37 saves. Royals pitcher Joe Beckwith, a former Dodger, recalled a game this season in which Leibrandt took a 1-0 shutout into the ninth against the Twins. They got a couple of runners on, and Quisenberry gave up a two-run double to Roy Smalley.
"If Quiz is his normal self, going good the whole year, then he comes in after (Jack) Clark gets the base hit," Beckwith said, referring to the single by Clark on a 3-and-0 pitch that drew the Cardinals to within one, 2-1.
"But Quiz's year has been a lot like mine--up and down."
Royal catcher Jim Sundberg said Leibrandt was still throwing well.
"We weren't going to give in to Clark," he said. "Charlie made a good pitch, a changeup down. I think Clark tried like heck to hit it up in the air and bounced it past George (Brett). I don't think he imagined hitting a changeup, 3-and-0."
The Royals, of course, never imagined they'd be in the position they are now--two games down and going to St. Louis, where the Cardinals had the best home record in baseball.
"Charlie's soaking his arm," a Royal spokesman said to the reporters gathered around Leibrandt's locker in the Kansas City clubhouse. "He said he has nothing to say."
For Kansas City, there was no Quiz, only a riddle.
"When you can't close it out," said Royal second baseman Frank White, "you have to ask yourself what's missing."