That pack of cigarettes on Doug Rader's desk was nearing the end of a short life. It never really had a chance, not after what Rader endured during the ninth inning of a draining 7-6 Angel victory Sunday afternoon.
Until then, it had been a regular stroll in the ballpark. The Angels had scored seven runs in the first three innings, producing a 15-hit attack that even included a home run by Wally Joyner--his first since April 27, a homerless drought of 169 at-bats--while putting the Angels in position to win their third consecutive game from the American League East-leading Baltimore Orioles.
But in the ninth, Rader handed the ball to reliever Bryan Harvey, along with a 7-4 lead.
One out and four batters later, Baltimore had the bases loaded and Cal Ripken at the plate.
As visions of extra innings danced in Oriole heads, Harvey painstakingly worked the count to 2-2, including a check swing that was called ball three by plate umpire Derryl Cousins. However, Cousins was overruled on appeal by first base umpire Mike Reilly.
Finally, a full swing and a miss. Ripken was gone. Baltimore was down to a final out.
Up stepped Mickey Tettleton, Baltimore's cleanup hitter and home-run leader.
Harvey walked him on five pitches, forcing in a run. The Angels led, 7-5.
Up stepped Joe Orsulak, who had homered off Angel starter Kirk McCaskill in the second inning.
Harvey walked him on a full count, forcing in another run. The Angels led, 7-6.
Up stepped Jim Traber, who had beaten the Angels Thursday night with an eighth-inning pinch home run and had a double, a single and a drive to the center-field wall in his first three at-bats Sunday.
Harvey fired his first pitch, and Traber swung for the fences.
The bat swished through the air for strike one.
Harvey fired a second pitch, a fastball on the outside corner.
Traber took it for strike two.
Harvey fired a third pitch, another fastball, "as hard as I could throw it," he would say later.
Traber swung and missed again. The game was over.
Meanwhile, the smoke still hadn't cleared.
"Smoke?" Rader asked innocently when someone noticed the limp package of cigarettes on his desk. "Oh, I don't smoke. That's just a prop to make you guys think it's bugging me. That's part of my managerial deal, the aura I'm trying to create."
Rader was asked about Harvey's wild ride through the ninth.
"We knew what Harv was doing," Rader deadpanned. "He wasn't tricking us. He's pulled that stuff before . . .
"He was just working on a save. He's thinking, 'I haven't got a save in a while. Well, if you guys can't get me one, I'll do it myself.' It took some doing to get into that situation, but when it came down to crunch time, it was boom, boom, boom.
"It was pretty obvious he did it on purpose."
About as obvious as Harvey's angry spike of the baseball after the final out?
"Well, that's part of his act," Rader said. "Harv. He's such a goofball."
A few feet outside Rader's door, Harvey continued to grouse about his three-hit, two-walk ninth inning.
"I've just gotta get sharp," Harvey said. "My forkball wasn't sharp today. The other day, my heater wasn't good. It's hard to get in rhythm when you're not pitching."
Harvey, who last pitched Wednesday night, was miffed at many things--himself, his recent lack of work, his belief that Cousins was inconsistent with his strike calls.
"The strike he called on Traber was the same pitch I walked Tettleton on," Harvey said. "When they gave me the ball after the game, I started to throw it at the home plate umpire. But I stopped myself and slapped it on the ground.
"I was more upset with myself, walking those two guys there."
If saves were fishes, Harvey might be tempted to throw this one back. But as ugly as it was, he's stuck with it, increasing his staff-leading total to nine.
And all those runs the Angels scored off starter Jeff Ballard (9-3) in the first three innings, leaving the Orioles seemingly buried at 7-1? Turns out, the Angels needed every one of them.
Joyner drove in three, two on a first-inning double. But his solo home run in the third inning was far more significant, considering the frequency of Joyner home runs these days.
This was Joyner's second home run of the season. In fact, it was his second since last Sept. 1, a span of 352 at-bats.
"I haven't had too much practice (trotting around the bases after a home run)," conceded Joyner, who sprinted as far as third base before realizing what he had done.
Rader, however, chose to downplay the homerless streak.
"It's not like he hasn't been swinging pretty good," Rader said. "He's hit some balls that didn't go out, only because they were hit too high or hit too well--hard line drives that didn't have the trajectory.
"I'm not concerned with Wally Joyner."
Rader has other worries. Sunday's ninth inning, for instance.
He has the cigarette butts to prove it.