For outfielder Fred Lynn, the pressure has become so intense during the skid that he feels as if he's in the middle of a pennant race. "You say, 'You're in last place, how can there be pressure?' There's tremendous pressure," he says. "It's not a monkey on our backs anymore. It's Godzilla."
Robert Harris certainly is feeling the strain. He's serving as the Orioles' batboy in Kansas City. When Billy Ripken asks him to stuff some hits into Ripken's Louisville Slugger, Harris smiles nervously. "I don't want to promise anything I have no control over," he says. "If you don't get a hit, will it be my fault or not?"
Even the opposition is feeling the heat. "If they were eight and eight, it would just be another game," says the Royals' George Brett. "But they're oh and 15. I sure don't want to be the first to lose to them."
GAME 17: BALTIMORE 3, KANSAS CITY 4. Bo Jackson's lazy fly to right in the bottom of the ninth gets caught in the wind and bounds high off the fence behind Lynn, who's in as a defensive replacement. The catchable ball is ruled a triple. Jackson scores the winning run on Kurt Stillwell's single. "You get a routine fly ball and it becomes a triple," says Lynn. "Ninety-nine times out of 100 it's an out. We're inventing ways to lose. It looks as if we're going to have to play a perfect game to win. A victory now would be like putting on a World Series ring. When you get down to it, it means a lot."
GAME 18: BALTIMORE 1, KANSAS CITY 3. The Birds get shut down on six hits by the Royals' Bret Saberhagen, who had won only four games since the 1987 All-Star break. It's the 10th time in their 18 games that the O's have failed to score more than one run.
The tedium is broken only by the adventurous play of Baltimore's Jim Traber—a leftfielder with the girth and mobility of Baltimore's Bromo-Seltzer tower—who misplayed a broken-bat fly ball into a ground-rule double and turned a hit by Frank White into a double by trying to field it with his tummy. Still, Robinson finds an encouraging sign. "We have an off-day tomorrow," he says. "We won't lose one."
Stone, who pinch-hit and struck out looking, believes the time has come to take action. "We've got to pull ourselves out of this deep, deep funk," he says.
When it comes to funk, nobody in baseball knows more about it than the Royals' pitching coach. "It has to be tough for the Orioles just to come to the ballpark every day," says Frank Funk. "We were in our dugout knowing we were going to win, while they were in theirs, planning to lose. They just have to endure, I guess. Everybody expects them to break out any game now. Then again, people have been expecting that since Opening Day."