Incaviglia's slam powers O's 5-2 win Outfielder turns grand slam tables on Seattle in his debut

Murray hits 499th HR

Tied for wild-card lead, O's stay 4 back of N.Y.

August 31, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE -- Left-handers have given the Orioles trouble this year. But last night, the Orioles' revamped lineup was trouble for Seattle left-hander Sterling Hitchcock.

The night after they lost to Seattle on a grand slam, newcomer Pete Incaviglia hit a grand slam and Eddie Murray mashed the 499th home run of his career, and the Orioles held on to beat the Mariners, 5-2.

"It's one way to endear yourself to your new teammates," manager Davey Johnson said of Incaviglia, who was acquired from Philadelphia on Thursday along with third baseman Todd Zeile, who added two hits of his own last night.

The Orioles (71-63) kept pace with the Chicago White Sox (72-64) at the top of the wild-card standings, and gained a game on the Mariners (70-64) and the Boston Red Sox (69-66). The Orioles are four games behind New York (75-59) in the AL East.

Murray had gone homerless in 12 straight games. He had only eight hits in 39 at-bats (.205) in that time, only one extra-base hit. He swung weakly Thursday night in four at-bats, particularly from the right side.

After the Orioles traded for Zeile and Incaviglia, two right-handed hitters, Johnson mentioned the possibility of using Incaviglia to give Murray an occasional rest.

That Murray was in the lineup last night, then, was a bit of a surprise; Johnson instead chose to rest B. J. Surhoff and keep Murray in the lineup against Hitchcock, against whom Murray had five hits in 15 career at-bats.

Murray flied out to center in his first at-bat, and in his second at-bat, Murray pulled a grounder down the third base line. Dave Hollins tried to backhand the ball, but it bounced away and Murray scurried to first, thinking he had career hit No. 3,196.

Third base umpire Mark Johnson raised his arms and called the ball foul, and Murray stood at first, staring, incredulous. He looked into the dugout, checking with teammates to see what they thought, before walking slowly back to home.

Two pitches later, Murray locked in on an off-speed pitch and pulled it, the ball ascending quickly as it left his bat. Seattle left fielder Mark Whiten took two steps toward the line before he pulled up: There was no sense in chasing home run No. 499.

Murray settled into his home run trot around first, and when he neared second, Seattle fans began to rise, and by the time Murray reached home plate, they all stood and clapped. Sometimes partisanship bends for historical greatness.

"It would have been nice to do it [at Camden Yards]," Murray said of his quest for No. 500. "Now I'd like to get it out of the way."

Seattle right fielder Jay Buhner matched Murray's 20th homer leading off the fourth, when Buhner hit his 38th homer. The

Orioles have nine players with 20 or more homers and the Mariners have Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey, et al, but the score would remain tied at 1-1 through the fifth.

The top of the sixth began ignominiously for the Orioles. After Rafael Palmeiro doubled -- appearing to come out of his slide a bit gingerly -- he was thrown out at third on a ground ball to shortstop. But Zeile kept the rally alive, hitting his second single in three at-bats, and Murray lined a single to left, loading the bases.

Incaviglia hit six homers in 52 at-bats against left-handers in the NL this year, and right-hander Rafael Carmona was warming up. Seattle manager Lou Piniella knew, however, that had he brought in Carmona, Surhoff would've batted for Incaviglia. He stuck with Hitchcock.

Oops. Incaviglia bashed his sixth career grand slam to right -- almost to the exact same spot Whiten hit his Thursday night -- and propelled by the right-handed power Orioles GM Pat Gillick had found, the Orioles led 5-1.

Incaviglia crossed the plate to find a whole new set of teammates waiting to congratulate him, 30 sets of head slaps, low-fives and high-fives and knuckle bashes. It's tough being the new kid in school.

"Anything I can do to help," said Incaviglia, grateful to be back in a pennant race.

It was Incaviglia's 200th homer of his career, and the Orioles' ninth grand slam of the year, a club record.

The Orioles still had to get through the last four innings, and as he did Thursday night, Johnson went to his bullpen early. Starter Rocky Coppinger (8-5) gave up Martinez's first homer since July 6, which cut the Orioles' lead to 5-2, and Buhner singled.

Johnson called for Jesse Orosco, who got two outs and put two more runners on, loading the bases. But Terry Mathews took over for Orosco and retired pinch hitter Doug Strange, ending the threat.

Mathews pitched the seventh and two outs into the eighth and allowed a double to Hollins. Randy Myers, who gave up a decisive grand slam Thursday, struck out pinch hitter John Marzano to close out the eighth.

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