Murray has blast, but O's lose, 9-5 Homecoming slugger hits 2-run homer in loss to Twins

Needs 8 for career 500th

Starter Haynes yields 7 runs in 4 1/3 innings

July 23, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

Just like the old days. Eddie Murray punishing a pitcher, Orioles fans chanting in approval, a curtain call after a Murray homer.

Only the venue was different for Murray's return to the Orioles, Camden Yards instead of Memorial Stadium, as well as the result -- nothing like 1979 or 1983. The Twins beat the Orioles, 9-5, before 42,129 last night, scorching Jimmy Haynes for seven runs in 4 1/3 innings.

Murray, acquired for pitcher Kent Mercker in a trade with Cleveland on Sunday, hit a two-run homer, the 492nd of his career, and Baltimore approved. If you include the eight homers Murray has hit in the postseason, last night's blast was the 500th of his career. "Hopefully, there's more of that to come," Murray said.

Orioles right fielder Bobby Bonilla said, "That was Eddie Murray's night there.That home run didn't surprise me at all. . . . Eddie being here is wonderful. You couldn't have written it any better."

Murray left the Orioles more than seven years ago, and, strangely, it almost seemed like he never departed. Those seasons in Los Angeles, New York and Cleveland? A short sabbatical. He was right at home in the clubhouse, good-naturedly calling to Orioles equipment manager Jim Tyler for a pair of pants that fit him, and for a hat.

Catcher Gregg Zaun, the nephew of Rick Dempsey, one of Murray's former Orioles teammates, volunteered to blacken Murray's shoes. Murray's greeting of Cal Ripken was very matter-of-fact, a short chat, like he would do most every day.

Murray teased new teammate Manny Alexander, pretending to read over Alexander's shoulder while the infielder was reading phone messages. If Murray felt at all uncomfortable or anxious -- and there were no such outward signs -- he was getting through it by making others comfortable and relaxed.

When Murray came out for batting practice, he could see a sign hung behind the bullpens in left, a huge sign: WELCOME BACK EDDIE. But the real welcome would come as public address announcer Rex Barney called out the lineups before the game. When Barney introduced Murray, the crowd exploded into that familiar chant: "Ed-die! Ed-die! Ed-die!"

He made his first appearance in the first inning, stepping into the on-deck circle. But Bobby Bonilla ended the inning by hitting into a double play, and Murray's first at-bat didn't come until the second.

The fans stood again, and Murray stepped in and out of the batter's box to acknowledge the cheers with a wave, once, then a second time.

"I was just trying to acknowledge the appreciation of the fans," Murray said. "It was time to get in there and go to work."

He reached on an error that first at-bat, and struck out in the third inning, plate umpire Tim Tschida calling him out on an inside fastball and drawing the wrath of the distinctly pro-Murray crowd.

But in the fifth, batting against Minnesota starter Rich Robertson, Murray lashed a first-pitch fastball well over the wall in left-center, and Camden Yards came alive, the cheers never fading until Murray stepped out of the dugout in a curtain call.

"I just knew they were going to stay up there until I acknowledged them," Murray said.

"That's one less to 500. I've gotten close enough now that it's something I think about. Charles Steinberg [a former Orioles media relations director] beat it into my brain for about seven years: 'Man, you're really close. It's so close.'

"It was nice to get the first hit out of the way. It would've been nice to win the ballgame."

Johnson said, "Eddie did his job. We didn't do ours."

Nope. Haynes lost his spot in the rotation in early June, and at the time he said there was some relief in that. Pitching out of the bullpen, he could go to the mound and fire the ball, rather than spend four days fretting over his mechanics and scouting reports and how to hold certain runners.

Haynes thrived in long relief, in situations when there wasn't much pressure. In his eight relief appearances after being dropped from the rotation, he entered the game with the Orioles trailing by three or more runs seven times. In those seven games he had a 2.22 ERA. One time, on July 17, he entered the game with the score tied -- and gave up three runs in two innings.

The question about Haynes last night, therefore, was how would he react to a pressure situation, starting after four days of preparation and reading scouting reports and worrying about his mechanics, and pitching against a team, the Twins, that always hits and plays aggressively.

Haynes reacted. Poorly.

He walked Minnesota's leadoff hitter, Chuck Knoblauch, and he walked Rich Becker. After Paul Molitor hit into a fielder's choice, Marty Cordova singled and Stan Stahoviak doubled. Five batters into the game, Minnesota led 3-0.

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