Osteen, called "Gomer" by his teammates, is a small man for a big-league pitcher, unprepossessing, moderately endowed with talent and singularly unlucky. It would be unreasonable to ask him to do a thing that Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax could not do—beat the Twins—but Manager Walter Alston had no choice but to ask him.
Gomer gave it his best shot, and that was his first mistake. Zoilo Versalles led off the game and creamed the first pitch, bouncing it into the left-field stands for a ground-rule double. "I had my mind made up to throw him a curve," Osteen said, "and I tried to throw it too hard. It hung up in his eyes, with no spin at all." Trying less hard, Gomer retired the next two batters, Versalles moving to third on an infield out. Then he had to pitch to Killebrew.
"It's a different feeling when Killebrew comes up in this park," First Baseman Wes Parker said. "He doesn't scare you as much as he does in Minneapolis." But he's still Harmon Killebrew, window-breaker, and Osteen walked him. With a 2-0 count to Earl Battey, Killebrew ran. He stopped halfway to second as Maury Wills, moving in front of the base, took John Roseboro's throw. It seemed to be a play that wouldn't have been news to the old Orioles: the runner from first gets himself in a rundown, in the hope that the umpires will note that the runner from third scored before the rundown was completed.
But that wasn't the play. Sam Mele, with his best and almost only hit-and-run batter at the plate, had played hit-and-run. So had Killebrew and so had Osteen, throwing Battey a strike, high and away. But Battey hadn't. He took the pitch and Versalles was run down, 6-2-5. "Battey missed the sign," Mele said. "And Killebrew is supposed to run through, to draw a throw."
First-base Coach Jim Lemon agreed, more or less. "He shouldn't have stopped," Lemon said, "unless he was within five yards of the bag, so by drawing a throw he could let Versalles score." Battey couldn't testify. He had run into the framework of the dugout boxes while pursuing a pop foul in the seventh inning, bruising his voice box, and he couldn't talk.
"That was the big play," said Osteen, possibly giddy from the feeling of having four runs to work with after six innings. "If they score they have a big advantage. Getting a run early makes a team confident and more aggressive. They would have been tougher to pitch to."
Tougher, perhaps, but not impossible. Osteen confined his mistakes to the first inning. He didn't think the game was the best he had pitched all year, but he had to concede it was the best he had won. There was a 1-0 defeat by the Mets in which Billy Cowan's ninth-inning home run was only the second hit off him. He remembered that. There was also a 2-0 defeat by the Pirates' Bob Veale, a game in which Osteen didn't throw a bad pitch. After Osteen's first six starts this year he was 3-3 and could, with pedestrian luck, have been 6-0. The Dodgers got him three runs, aggregate, in the three defeats.
"It's the most remarkable club I've ever seen," said Wally Moon, the veteran pinch hitter who seldom pinch-hits. "It has almost no bench. I'm the only experienced hitter the manager can use, but if he sends me up they bring in a left-hander. Considering the disadvantages, the manager has got a lot of mileage out of this club."
This was remarkable from Moon, who was not an Alston admirer a few years ago, when he was not playing as much as he would have liked. Waves of players have come to the Dodgers and departed in the past dozen years, and half of each wave has knocked Alston as being indecisive.
"I did think that at first," Moon said. "But I've been around long enough to know now that he's a very good manager." Moon was a first-magnitude star with the improbable Dodgers who won the 1959 pennant in a playoff and then the World Series. He wasn't enchanted with Alston then. "But when we came down the stretch we had the best pitching rotation of any team in contention," Moon said. "And this year we had it again. He refused to panic."