For eight innings Wednesday night, the Jack Lazorko story, a tale of a squat, 31-year-old junkballer who arrived in Anaheim after a decade in the bush leagues, was almost too good to be true.
This Mr. Everyman baffled and bewildered one of the American League's most formidable lineups with sinkers and change-ups, holding the Toronto Blue Jays to one run and four hits through eight innings.
Then came the ninth inning, baseball's equivalent to midnight, and time ran out on this fairy tale.
Toronto's Fred McGriff hit a one-out homer and catcher's interference was called against Bob Boone. Lazorko was gone. And, within moments, so was his 4-2 lead.
Angel Manager Gene Mauch replaced one rags-to-majors story with another, summoning 29-year-old rookie DeWayne Buice from the bullpen, and thus overloaded, the plot went haywire.
Buice allowed the Blue Jays to tie the game and force extra innings, where the Angels finally salvaged it on a 10th-inning home run by Wally Joyner, 5-4.
Joyner hit it with one out in the bottom of the 10th, on a 1-and-2 pitch from Toronto's heretofore perfect relief pitcher, Tom Henke. Including the first two innings he worked Wednesday, Henke (0-1) had not allowed a run during his first 21 innings of 1987.
Joyner's homer gave gave the victory to Angel reliever Gary Lucas (1-1).
Lazorko, recalled from Edmonton on Monday to aid the Angels' pitching emergency, provided more than Mauch could have hoped. Through eight innings, Lazorko restricted Toronto to one run--a solo home run by Jesse Barfield in the second inning--and retired the Blue Jays in order four times.
But with one out in the ninth, Lazorko surrendered home run No. 2, to McGriff, pulling Toronto to within 4-2. Then, Lazorko got George Bell to swing on a 2-and-2 but Bell made contact only with catcher Bob Boone's glove. Bell was awarded first base.
Buice entered the game and, on another 2-and-2 pitch, hit Barfield with the pitch. When Willie Upshaw hit a grounder to second, both runners moved into scoring position.
A passed ball by Boone scored Bell and sending Barfield to third. Barfield scored the tying run when Ernie Whitt hit a cue shot over third baseman Doug DeCinces' head for a game-tying double.
All Mauch could do was wave his hands in disgust. And all Lazorko could do was wave his long-awaited first big-league victory goodby.
Buice finally ended the inning by getting Kelly Gruber to fly to center field, but the Angels provided no heroics in the bottom of the ninth. Henke struck out Jack Howell and Gary Pettis, and retired Mark McLemore on an easy grounder to first.
Onto the 10th inning, where Buice got one quick out and then got into trouble by walking Tony Fernandez and yielding a single to Rob Ducey, prompting another pitching change by Mauch.
Lucas came on, bringing an 11.40 earned-run average with him, and he loaded the bases by walking McGriff. Up stepped Bell, Toronto's RBI leader, who hit a sharp ground ball to third that DeCinces turned into a double play.
Joyner's home run was his first since May 9 and the Angels' first in 56 innings. With it, the Angels won their first three-game series in more than two weeks and climbed back to within two games of first-place Kansas City in the AL West.
The Angels scored their first four runs early--two in the first inning.
Playing a hunch, Mauch batted slumping (3 for 48) Dick Schofield leadoff with nothing more going for Schofield then, apparently, the fact he bats right and Toronto starter Jimmy Key throws left. The hunch paid off once, with Schofield opening the first inning with a single to left.
Joyner also singled and both runners moved up on a balk by Key. Both scored on a single into the left-center field gap by DeCinces.
A run-scoring double by Mark McLemore made it 3-1 in the fourth inning and Jack Howell brought home the Angels' fourth run with a triple in the sixth.
That set the stage for Lazorko's first major league win. Before Wednesday, his big-league log read: 0-1, 4.05 ERA in 33 games.
Lazorko is still 0-1. But his bid lasted long enough to give the Angels a second chance to win in extra innings--and give Lazorko a second start in the Angels' rotation.
And that beats where Lazorko had spent most of the past 10 years.