The Kansas City Royals still believe in miracles.
Down, 4-1, in the fourth inning of a game in which a loss to California would have given the Angels the Western Division championship in the American League, the Royals rallied for a 5-4 victory tonight.
The "magic number" remained at two for the Angels, who lead Kansas City by 3 1/2 games with three to play, the Royals four. California can clinch the championship in Wednesday evening's finale of this three-game series.
"Our chances are a little better now," said Royals third baseman George Brett, whose two-out single in the seventh provided the winning run.
"It will take almost a miracle, but I don't see why we should give up until we're mathematically eliminated. I believe in miracles. I hit .390, didn't I?"
Brett came to the plate with Willie Wilson at third base. Wilson had doubled when he looped a hit to center and stretched it into a two-bagger, then got to third on an infield out.
In numerous similar situations this year, Brett has been walked to get to either Amos Otis or Hal McRae. But Angels Manager Gene Mauch let right-hander Dave Goltz attempt to pitch around the left-hand-hitting Brett, who grounded a 2-0 pitch to right.
"That's why McRae has 130 runs batted in," Mauch said, explaining his decision to face Brett.
"It seems like every time I get walked, someone behind me, either Otis or McRae, has done something good," said Brett. "In Anaheim (Calif.) last week, they pitched to me, and I lined out to the second baseman. It's no secret this has not been my best year ever. Everybody knows it's not 1980 or 1979."
After the Royals took a 1-0 lead in the first with Brett doubling, McRae reaching on an error and Willie Aikens driving in Brett, the Angels roughed up Royals starter Larry Gura with four runs in the fourth.
Doug DeCinces doubled, Brian Downing singled and Bobby Grich walked, loading the bases for Don Baylor, who laced a 3-1 pitch to left, driving in two runs. A sacrifice fly by Bobby Clark and a base hit by Tim Foli made it 4-1, and no doubt the champagne was on ice.
But the Royals came back with two runs in their half of the fourth, with a walk, a single and a hit batsman loading the bases. A run scored when Cesar Geronimo bounced into a double play, and an infield hit by pinch hitter Steve Hammond made it 4-3.
In the sixth, Kansas City tied at 4 on Jerry Martin's home run off Angels starter Mike Witt.
Mauch brought in Goltz in the seventh, and Wilson and Brett went to work on him.
"It was not one of our better played games," said Mauch.
Royals Manager Dick Howser, whose team had lost 10 of its last 11, knows the Royals' chances of overtaking the Angels still are remote.
"If we don't win it, we won't make it easy on anybody," said Howser. "We're as good a ballclub as they are. When we're healthy, we can line up against them. I'm frustrated and disappointed, but if we can win tomorrow, it will put a little more heat on them."
The Angels finish the season with three games at home against Texas, while the Royals conclude at home with four against Oakland.