Murray, O's slam the door on White Sox Score eight in ninth to break open close game, 13-4

3 out in wild-card race

Mussina wins despite Thomas' HR, 3 RBIs

August 11, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

CHICAGO -- Cal Ripken got mad, and then he got the Orioles even in their crucial three-game series with the Chicago White Sox last night.

Ripken doubled home the tying run in the top of the eighth, scored the go-ahead run later in the inning and added some insurance in the ninth with an RBI single, and the Orioles beat Chicago, 13-4. Mike Mussina, in spite of his career-long losing battle with Frank Thomas, pitched 7 2/3 innings for the victory.

The Orioles turned a one-run game into a blowout with eight runs in the ninth, including a grand slam homer by Eddie Murray, the 495th homer of Murray's career and his 18th grand slam. Murray tied Willie McCovey for second place on the all-time list for career grand slams. Lou Gehrig is the all-time leader with 23.

The Orioles drew within three games of the White Sox in the wild-card race, and within eight games of the New York Yankees in the AL East. If the Orioles win today, they will have won a series against a team over .500 for the first time since May 17-19, when they took two of three from Seattle.

An RBI single by Thomas in the bottom of the third pushed the Chicago lead to 2-0, and after Roberto Alomar hit a three-run homer in the fifth for the Orioles, Thomas responded with his 25th homer, a two-run shot, in the sixth. White Sox 4, Orioles 3.

Chicago left-hander Wilson Alvarez came out for the eighth inning having allowed just six hits, and as long as he avoided an Orioles' homer, it seemed as if he'd be OK. The Orioles' last 12 runs, dating back to Thursday's win over Milwaukee, had come on homers.

But Jeffrey Hammonds laced a double into left-center to start the eighth. Ripken tried bunting Hammonds to third, but fouled the ball off. Ahead in the count 2-1, Ripken took a pitch inside that he thought was a ball.

Plate umpire Dave Phillips called it a strike, and Ripken kicked at the dirt angrily and barked at the ump. He started to step in to hit, but still angry, he stepped back out, kicking at the dirt some more.

Finally settling in, Ripken slammed a high changeup to left-center, scoring Hammonds with the tying run. Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, hitless in his previous 13 at-bats, pulled a high drive that landed at the base of the right-field wall, and Ripken scored the run that gave the Orioles a 5-4 lead.

Mussina retired the first two hitters in the bottom of the eighth, bringing up Thomas, Mussina's nemesis -- six homers in 34 at-bats against Mussina. Orioles manager Davey Johnson jogged to the mound and Mussina said something along the lines of You don't really want me to pitch to him, do you? Johnson smiled and called for Roger McDowell, who retired Thomas on a groundout.

The Orioles buried the White Sox with their eight-run rally in the ninth, which matched their single-inning high for runs for 1996.

Thomas will someday be inducted into the Hall of Fame and, someday, Mussina might join him there, as two of the greatest players of their generation. But Mussina probably won't want his plaque anywhere near Thomas', who, for some bizarre, inexplicable reason, hits Mussina as he might hit a replacement pitcher.

Mussina lost his major-league debut to the White Sox, 1-0, in 1991. The one run came on a homer by Thomas, and since then, Mussina has searched for a way to get Thomas out, without success. Going into last night's game, Thomas had a .563 average against Mussina -- a hard .563 average, with five doubles and five homers in 32 at-bats.

The Orioles didn't give Thomas a chance to hit in the series opener Friday night, walking him four times in five plate appearances, three of those intentional walks. True to form, Mussina walked Thomas with two outs and nobody on in the first inning.

Thomas' second at-bat came in the third inning, with the White Sox leading 1-0; the inning prior, Lyle Mouton stole second, moved to third on a grounder by Harold Baines and scored Chicago's first run on a sacrifice fly by Darren Lewis.

Thomas had a chance to build on that lead with a hit -- Ozzie Guillen was on second, in scoring position, with two outs. It seemed like a situation suited to pitching around Thomas, perhaps even intentionally walking him: First base was open, two outs, Thomas having ripped Mussina constantly in the past.

Mussina didn't pitch around Thomas, however. After falling behind in the count 1-0, he threw a fastball and Thomas lined it to center. Given it's location, over the middle of the plate, Mussina was fortunate Thomas didn't hit it further.

Down two runs and having little success against Alvarez, the Orioles looked dead. That was before Murray singled in the fifth, Chris Hoiles singled, and with two outs, Alomar muscled a pitch down and in and drove a high fly several feet over the wall in left. It was the 17th homer of the year for Alomar, who repeatedly elevates his game when the need arises. The Orioles led, 3-2.

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