-- They had nobody else. Their best pitcher is probably gone for the playoffs, the second best has been quarantined with something contagious growing in his throat. The Los Angeles Angels hadn't slept, barely knew where they were and all that was available was the pitcher who couldn't get anybody out last Friday in New York.
Then, when they needed it the most, Paul Byrd gave them a game they never could have expected.
His right arm has been opened and closed, tendons pulled from other arms and shoved into his. He is 34 and this season was not spectacular, with too many nights like the one last Friday dotting his record. But this is the one they will remember. If he does nothing else as a Los Angeles Angel, it will be Game 1 of the American League Championship Series that will stand in team history, the one in which he lobbed fastballs, twirled curves and somehow tricked the Chicago White Sox just enough to pull the Angels through six innings of a 3-2 victory.
Afterward, he walked in a stupor, perhaps a little dazed by a day that began at 7 a.m., when he stumbled off a bus and into the team's hotel after an all-night flight, but more likely overwhelmed by what he had done Tuesday night. He wore a hooded sweat shirt and looked small even in his baseball cleats. But there was an ease in the way he moved through the halls beneath U.S. Cellular Field.
"The way [Manager Mike Scioscia] gave me the ball, trusted me with the ball after I had a shaky outing in New York, has done loads for my confidence," he said.
More important, Byrd did loads for the Angels' hopes.
They were buried before they got here, told that without Bartolo Colon and with a weakened Jarrod Washburn they might not last long. Scioscia trusted Byrd because there was no one else to trust. Who else was going to pitch? Brendan Donnelly? Esteban Yan?
The night before, as he warmed up just in case, Byrd said he was inspired by the heart of rookie Ervin Santana, who sliced through the Yankees' lineup in relief of the broken Colon. The young pitcher was dazzling and Byrd looked at himself, trying to find the same desire.
"I was trying to emulate a rookie out there tonight," he said. "I'm trying to do what he did. He saved us and I'm trying to save the bullpen tonight."
Only it was more than just a bullpen he pulled through this game. Rather it was an aging pitcher, with the scars of elbow surgery just two years old still on his arm who got the Angels a 1-0 series lead.
"He teased the strike zone and he threw enough strikes to keep you honest," Chicago first baseman Paul Konerko said. "I think the whole story of this game is Paul Byrd."
This hasn't always been the case, even in Orange County, where he was a mediocre 12-11 this year, light years from the 17 victories he had with the Kansas City Royals a few years back. The repaired arm hasn't had much in it for a long time. But he has just enough tricks to keep going, keep getting these contracts like the one-year deal the Angels gave him back in December to fill out their pitching staff.
His playoffs had been miserable. In addition to Friday's debacle he had a 6.35 ERA from previous Division Series appearances with the Atlanta Braves. Yet he had this one game left in him, this game where he made the buoyant White Sox look feeble on a night when they could not afford it.
He wanted more than what he gave. He begged Scioscia for a seventh inning, then hit the first batter, prompting Scioscia to pull him. Later, he laughed sheepishly. "I should have just said, 'Thank you,' " and come out before the seventh, he said.
It should have been the Angels who said thanks.