Murray pushes in the clutch again in big way 20th 75-RBI season in row sets major-league record

Orioles sidelight

September 22, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

Eddie Murray's 501st home run wasn't as celebrated as his 500th, but it was close.

There were far fewer theatrics, but a similar crowd reaction, when Murray launched a two-out, sixth-inning grand slam over the center-field fence last night, ending the Orioles' prolonged offensive drought and providing the margin in a 6-3 Orioles victory.

Vintage Murray.

One of the best clutch hitters in major-league history, Murray is at his best with the game on the line. The grand slam was his second since joining the Orioles in July and the 19th of his career, passing Willie McCovey for second all-time.

It was also the Orioles' major-league record 11th grand slam this year, a record they share with this year's Seattle Mariners.

Murray surpassed Hank Aaron's record with his 20th straight season of 75 or more RBIs. He also joined Aaron's company on Sept. 6, when he became only the third player with 500 homers and 3,000 hits, joining Aaron and Willie Mays.

"It was a big hit right there," Murray said. "Moving past somebody else, I'm glad to have done it. You just like excelling when people are out there, period. Not necessarily with the bases loaded, but that's what the game is all about is trying to get your guys to touch home base more than theirs."

The timing of last night's home run couldn't have been much better.

The Orioles are giving away posters to all fans at today's game commemorating Murray's 500 homers and Aaron will be present when the Orioles honor Murray before the game.

That type of fanfare is not Murray's style. Murray said he's more comfortable hitting now than when the the crowd was waving bright orange signs in anticipation of his 500th homer.

"[Last night] was, to me, back to normal," Murray said. "It was lot easier than 498, 499 or 500. The cards being held up and stuff of that nature, I think, made me come out of what I do normally."

Which is produce in the clutch. The New York Yankees had already won an extra-inning game and the Mariners were just a half-game behind the Orioles entering play last night.

The Orioles could only muster one run off Blue Jays starter Pat Hentgen in the series opener on Friday and last night's starter, the much less heralded Woody Williams, no hit the Orioles through five innings.

Murray's grand slam was just their second -- and last -- hit of the night.

"The offense was not much, except for Murray," manager Davey Johnson said. "We haven't been scoring much and I can't remember us not hitting that many balls to the outfield. We're not hitting nothing."

The homer also ended an offensive drought for Murray. He went 13 games between homers 500 and 501. Yesterday's 1-for-3 performance raised his average for September to .245 (15-for-61). Murray had just five RBIs this month before the grand slam last night.

But for Murray, the best way to end a slump is to load the bases.

Pub Date: 9/22/96

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