Eddie Murray was the miracle man tonight, clubbing a three-run homer in the ninth inning to give those amazing Baltimore Orioles an 8-6 victory over the Detroit ttigers in the first game of a doubleheader.
"If we keep doing this, we might win it," Murray said after bowing to a screaming mob of 45,814. "We've got a good shot to win it all."
Good shot? If they keep playing like this, the Orioles will never lose again. After enjoying Murray's mortar shot into the left field bleachers on repeated television replays, the Orioles went out and came from behind three more times, the last on an eighth-inning pinch single by Terry Crowley, for a 6-5 triumph, a doubleheader sweep, a nine-game winning streak and a 3 1/2-game lead in the American League East.
Baltimore has a 17-4 record in June, with eight of those successes coming in the ninth inning or later. It's enough to make an opposing manager's hair turn white, except that Sparky Anderson (2-9 as Detroit's boss) already has pure white foliage.
Detroit built a 6-1 lead by the time Baltimore starter Scott McGregor departed in the fifth inning of the opener. So what? Friday night the Orioles rallied from a 5-1 deficit to win, 6-5, on Doug DeCinces' two-out homer in the ninth. Few in the largest crowd ever to see a twi-nighter here expected less this time.
Billy Smith's third homer made it 6-2.Then Anderson gave his starter, Milt Wilcox, a quick hook in the sixth and watched reliever Aurelio Lopez yield an RBI single to Rich Dauer and a two-run single to Al Bumbry.
Lopez had an easy time in the seventh and eighth, but Anderson called on lefty John Hiller to pitch the ninth. Hiller walked Bumbry, Smith laid down a two-strike sacrifice and Ken Singleton walked, too. Up stepped Murray, 0-for-8 lifetime against Hiller, and the first pitch wound up in the seats.
"I knew it was gone when I hit it," Murray said. "I think that may be the first hit I've ever gotten off him. He's been getting me out with change-ups for 3 1/2 years and I decided to look for one this time.
"It's nice to go back out and know they love you. And it's nice to see the place filled up like this. We just keep coming back. That's what it takes, everybody helping out. You can't put it on one person."
There were several helpers in the second game. Kiko Garcia whacked a two-run homer that tied it at 3-3 in the fifth. Ken Singleton rapped a two-run single, Bumbry scoring from first, to tie it again at 5-5 in the seventh. Then it was Crowley who won it in the eighth with a two-out single to right-center.
With that hit, Crowley was ending an incredible string of three straight home games won by the Orioles with three-run ninth-inning rallies. He started it with a climactic single against Texas June 10.
In each game, the Orioles received some remarkable relief pitching. Tippy Martinez won his second in two nights by tossing a double-play ball on his first pitch in the opener and permitting only one base runner, on a walk, in four innings.
Sammy Stewart won the nightcap by facing the minimum 11 batters after he replaced Jim Palmer in the sixth. Stewart hit Rusty Staub with one out in the ninth, but Steve Kemp grounded into a double play.
Palmer, making his first appearance since June 3, struggled through 105 pitches, five runs, nine hits and four walks before he was relieved.
One of the more amazing items in that nine-game winning streak is Palmer's failure to contribute to it. If he can regain his form after a bout with tendinitis, it would merely be one more addition to the Orioles' seeming invulnerability.
The record crowd boosted the season attendance to 577,508 for 29 dates, 149,720 ahead of last year and the most at this stage of the season in the club's 26-year history. A throng of 50,000 is projected for today's silver anniversary celebration, with heroes of years past playing an old-timers' game at 1 p.m. Then the heroes of today go for a sweep. CAPTION: Picture, Rich Dauer of Orioles hurdles Tiger Steve Kemp to complete double play. Billy Smith backs up. AP