Murray grand in 6-3 O's win His slam caps 6-run 6th after Blue Jays no-hit Orioles through five

4 walks preceded blast

Coppinger's strong 7 helps keep 'card' lead

September 22, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

One good swing, one hard-hit ball. That's all the Orioles mustered against the Toronto Blue Jays last night, as they tried to shake themselves from a two-day stupor.

That's all they needed. The Orioles didn't get any hits against the Blue Jays until the sixth inning, and got no more after the sixth, but sandwiched an infield single and a grand slam by Eddie Murray around four walks, and beat Toronto, 6-3.

Rookie Rocky Coppinger, a major question mark for the Orioles over the last 10 days because of stiffness in his pitching forearm, threw seven strong innings to improve his record to 9-6 and out-duel Blue Jays right-hander Woody Williams.

Murray's grand slam, hit off Blue Jays reliever Scott Brow, was the 19th of his career, advancing Murray past Willie McCovey for most career grand slams. Yankees legend Lou Gehrig ranks first, with 23, and Murray ranks second. Murray's grand slam gave him 76 RBIs for the season, and he became the first player in major-league history to drive in 75 runs over 20 consecutive seasons.

For another day, the Orioles held their place in the playoff races. They're four games behind the Yankees in the American League East, with New York's magic number down to five, and they're a game ahead of Seattle, which played late last night, in the wild-card race.

The Orioles respond to unestablished Toronto pitchers in the same savvy manner Superman deals with kryptonite: They faint away. From Giovanni Carrara to Paul Menhart to Huck Flener, to Woody Williams last night, the tradition of baby Jays shutting down the Orioles is alive and well.

Williams, 30, had surgery on his pitching shoulder last September, and wasn't activated until the end of May. After two appearances, he was back on the disabled list for another month, and didn't return to the big leagues for good until Aug. 8.

But Williams threw eight shutout innings against Kansas City Sept. 4, and after a poor outing against Texas Sept. 10 (10 hits and six runs in five innings), Williams beat the Yankees, 3-1, on Sept. 15.

No one would have figured him, however, for the sort of pitcher to throw a no-hitter against the Orioles. Fact is fact -- after five innings, the Orioles had no hits, weren't even making much solid contact, and trailed 2-0. B. J. Surhoff, the final out in the bottom of the fifth, swung and missed at a ball low and inside to strike out, and slammed his helmet and flung his bat.

As Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles circled behind home plate umpire Mike Reilly to lead off the bottom of the sixth, the JumboTron displayed a tight TV shot of the scoreboard -- no runs, no hits for the Orioles.

It was a blatant violation of the time-honored superstition that no one should openly acknowledge a no-hitter in progress, but, hey, if Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston is going to order squeeze bunts with five-run leads, the Orioles' JumboTron crew can put a hex on Toronto.

Shortly thereafter Hoiles topped a grounder to the left side, and Blue Jays third baseman Ed Sprague reached down and fumbled once before getting a grip on the ball and firing to first. The throw reached first ahead of Hoiles, but it was wild, up the first base line, and Hoiles was safe. The play was ruled a hit, and at the least, the Orioles would know they would not be the victims of a no-hitter thrown by Woody Williams.

Brady Anderson grounded into a fielder's choice, and Williams walked Roberto Alomar. Todd Zeile flied to right, the second out, but after swinging and missing the first pitch thrown to him, Rafael Palmeiro walked, loading the bases.

To Gaston and Blue Jays pitching coach Mel Queen, this was a familiar pattern. Since coming back from his surgery, Williams has had a tendency to lose his control all at once, from good to bad. Gaston called to the Toronto bullpen with the order: Get Scott Brow warming up.

Williams threw a ball very high to Bobby Bonilla, and another, not anywhere near the strike zone, and that was enough for Gaston. He called for Brow to pitch with the bases loaded, the count two balls and no strikes on Bonilla.

Johnson, noting how well Williams had been throwing, said, "I was pleased Cito took him out."

Johnson was asked, was Williams losing his stuff? "That's [Gaston's] call," Johnson responded. "He knows his guys better than I do."

Brow had allowed 20 walks in 35 innings -- a high ratio -- and he walked Bonilla, to force in the Orioles' first run, the Camden Yards crowd of 47,270 climbing the decibel scale with each pitch.

Cal Ripken took a ball, and then another, looked down at third base coach Sam Perlozzo for any sign. Perlozzo clapped his hands together and nodded his head. Do what you need to do.

Ripken took another ball, and, with fans roaring, another ball, and the Orioles' record-setting offense had tied the score, on an infield hit by one of their slowest players and four walks.

"The other guy [Brow] looked like he had good stuff," said Johnson. "He was just nervous as all get-out."

Brow threw a strike to Murray, but he lost the strike zone again, throwing three straight balls. A note that Murray hit a grand slam against Chicago Aug. 10, tying McCovey's mark, flashed on the JumbroTron.

Brow threw a fastball, and Murray swung, the first swing by an Oriole in 16 pitches, and blasted the ball into the center-field stands.

"Not much offense," Johnson said later. "A lot of walks and one bomb."

It was Murray's 22nd homer of the season, the first in 45 at-bats since he hit career home run No. 500 on Sept. 6.

Coppinger gave up four hits and four walks over seven innings, striking out six, and both runs resulted from defensive mistakes -- Bonilla missed a fly ball, and Ripken threw a ball away from the shortstop hole.

Randy Myers, the fourth Orioles pitcher, got the last out for his 31st save.

Pub Date: 9/22/96

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