BALTIMORE — During the Angels' 6-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles Thursday afternoon, Wally Joyner learned another valuable rookie lesson: You can hit the baseball all you like, but sometimes it is going to hit back.
Joyner left the game limping in the first inning when he wound up, for once, on the wrong end of a line drive. This one, off the bat of Baltimore's Jim Dwyer, short-hopped Joyner at first base and caught him just below the left kneecap. The ball struck the leg so hard that it nearly ricochetted into the visitor's dugout, enabling Juan Bonilla, who began the play on first base, to sprint all the way to third.
Joyner tried to shake it off, and for a while he seemed to be doing a better job of it than Angel pitcher Jim Slaton. Slaton yielded an ensuing three-run home run to Fred Lynn and a walk to Eddie Murray before spotting real trouble at first base.
As Murray trotted up the baseline, Joyner's knee buckled. Joyner sat down on the grass near the first-base box, had trainer Ned Bergert look the knee over and then tried to return to the field. The knee gave way again, and Bergert soon became a human crutch, assisting Joyner back to the dugout.
For the Angels, it was a scary scene, like something out of the Bobby Valentine horror file. They could already imagine the headline: Rookie Tears Up League, Then Tears Up Knee . Was Wally World about to become Wally Ward?
It turned out not to be as bad as it looked. Joyner was taken to nearby Children's Hospital for X-rays, which proved negative. Orthopedist Hugh Baugher said the tendon just below the left kneecap was badly bruised. He said it would be up to Joyner when he could play again.
Joyner said he hopes to play in tonight's series opener at Yankee Stadium.
The Angels' season can now continue.
Manager Gene Mauch admitted to some anxious moments as he awaited the official word from Baugher. He said he was worried . . . "until they told me it wasn't broken."
"He was plunked pretty good," Mauch said. "The ball came off the edge of the grass and took off on him. It just smoked him."
Joyner returned to Memorial Stadium dressed in street clothes, his left knee immobilized by a brace. He said he wasn't feeling any pain.
"There's no discomfort," he said. "I just don't have a full range of motion as far as bending the knee is concerned. I was looking forward to playing at Yankee Stadium. I'll try to play tomorrow."
Joyner didn't go so far as to say he didn't know what hit him, but he did have trouble seeing the ball in the early-afternoon glare.
"It was tough to pick up off the bat," he said. "It was the first ball hit to me, and it short-hopped me.
"When it first hit me, there wasn't any pain. I had a couple of layers of socks and a stirrup to pad the knee. I didn't see the need for anybody to come out and look at it.
"But then I was moving around at first, holding the runner on, and put stress on the leg. Finally, it began to give out."
As it developed, the Angels were hurt considerably more by events that transpired after Joyner's departure.
--Eddie Murray's sinking line-drive double with the bases loaded in the fourth inning. Left fielder Brian Downing dived for the ball and got his glove on it, but the force of his landing caused the ball to pop loose. Murray was credited with a double, two runs scored, and the Orioles had a 6-1 lead. "That's the one that really hurt," Mauch said. "You could call it a cheap hit by Eddie Murray, I guess, but it's better than hitting it good. Those are the ones that make you sick."
--Double plays. The Angels grounded into three of them, and two by Doug DeCinces proved especially costly. After reliever Rich Bordi walked the first two batters of the seventh inning, DeCinces hit into his first double play. The Angels came away empty. With one out and two runners on base in the top of the ninth, DeCinces hit into his second double play. Game over, Orioles win. "The last one was pretty well-hit, but the one to third (in the seventh inning), I didn't like," Mauch said. "I would rather him be more selective in that situation."
The Angels also left the bases loaded in the sixth inning when Bordi struck out pinch-hitter Reggie Jackson for the third out. Bordi worked the final 3 innings to preserve the victory for starter Scott McGregor (4-3).