The miracle on 33rd Street continued tonight when Eddie Murray stole home standing up with two out in the 12th inning to give the Baltimore Orioles a 2-1 thriller over the Chicago White Sox before a crowd of 14,170. The Birds got only four hits in their second straight 12-inning defeat of the Sox by this score.
Relief pitcher Guy Hoffman, a 22-year-old rookie, stepped off the rubber when Doug DeCinces broke from first base with a 1-2 count on pinch hitter Danny Ayala. While Hoffman was looking at DeCinces, Murray scored easily from third before Hoffman had time to recover.
Murray's theft enabled Baltimore to retain its five-game American League East lead over the Boston Red Sox, who defeated Minnesota, 9-5.
Mike Flanagan went the distance for the Birds to improve his record to 16-7. It was the Orioles' 29th victory this season in the eighth inning or beyond.
"It's a play we work on in spring training," Oriole Manager Earl Weaver said of Murray's first major league steal of home. "We worked it on Vida Blue when he was a rookie. It worked so well that Blue got the runner on first in a rundown and couldn't believe the guy on third scored until he saw the replay after the game.
"(John, the team brain trust) Lowenstein says it's a bad percentage play and it is, but you've got to use it once in a while. You hate to use it because you like to keep it up your sleeve, but I couldn't think of a better time to use it," Weaver said.
"We might just be able to use it one more time this year."
Murray had opened the bottom of the 12th with a single and moved to second on Lee May's sacrifice bunt. After Hoffman intentionally walked DeCinces, Gary Roenicke moved Murray to third with a fly to left center.
He (Hoffman) did just what a lefthanded pitcher should do on that play," said Murray. "He has to do something to Doug because he has too big a lead. I watched him (Hoffman) for two or three pitches and he would set, look at third, then look at first. Once he looks around, I make my break and it's up to Doug to get all the attention."
Hoffman's reaction: "He fooled a rookie, I guess."
The 12th inning overshadowed the sterling performances of starting pitchers Flanagan, now tied for the league lead in wins with 16, and Chicago left-hander Ken Kravec.
Flanagan pitched all 12 innings for his 12th complete game in 29 starts. He gave up only five hits while striking out 12, one below his career high. He has won his last six of seven games and moved into third place in AL strikeouts, having fanned 31 batters in his last 29 innings.
Kravec (11-10) allowed just three hits, striking out four.
White Sox pitchers gave up only four runs and 12 hits in this series but still lost two of three games to the O's.
Chicago second baseman Jim Morrison, a .226 hitter, got Kravec off to a good start by hitting Flanagan's first pitch of the game into the left center field bullpen to give Chicago a 1-0 lead.
His sixth home run, and second in two nights, held up until the fifth inning when DeClinces walked, went to third on Roenicke's line drive double and scored on Rick Dempsey's sacrifice fly.
Both pitchers breezed through the seventh inning, as the evening became tougher for the hitters. The temperature was in the upper 50s and a stiff wind blew in from center field.
Flanagan had retired 19 of 20 batters through the seventh when Junior Moore broke his string a single leading off the eighth.
Chicago almost scored in the 12th when, after two were out, Lamar Johnson extended his hitting streak to 16 games with a single to center and stole second. Chet Lemon smashed a sinking line drive, but it was caught by right fielder Ken Singleton.
The Orioles have had trouble with left-handers and are scheduled to face their fifth in a row tomorrow night when surging Kansas City comes to Memorial Stadium, sending Paul Splittorf against the Birds.