Eddie Murray's bat had been so tied up in knots that he also turned tongue-tied coming into the long weekend series against the Kansas City Royals.
Before the series opener Thursday night the Orioles' first baseman refused an interview, saying, "It's not a good time."
By late tonight, times were better. Murray hit his first home run in 31 games and five weeks Friday night--his longest dry spell ever for a homer--and tonight he followed it with another that propelled the Orioles to a second consecutive victory over the Royals, 1-0.
"You knew he wasn't going into the All-Star break with two or three homers," said Royals Manager Dick Howser. Murray has four.
His long drive into the right field bleachers in the seventh inning was an abrupt interruption into an excellently pitched game involving the Orioles' Scott McGregor and the Royals' Dennis Leonard, who suffered a knee injury that will sideline him at least two months; loser Mike Armstrong, and Dan Quisenberry. McGregor tossed a two-hitter.
Center fielder John Shelby and catcher Rick Dempsey preserved McGregor's first shutout of the year with a double play in the eighth inning. Shelby caught a medium-deep fly by Willie Wilson and threw out a daring U.L. Washington trying to score from third. Dempsey held ground against a hard slide by Washington, who had walked and advanced to third on a hit-and-run single by Onix Concepcion.
The Orioles had just three hits, but Murray's, the only one that counted, further darkened an already grim night for the Royals.
First, Leonard went down on the mound like he'd been shot in the fourth inning on a pitch to Cal Ripken, a called strike. He had not given up a hit, retiring 10 of the first 11 batters he faced, four on strikeouts.
Leonard, who had a three-game winning streak and 6-3 record coming into the game, was carried away on a stretcher by teammates and transported to a hospital for X-rays. A team physician reported that Leonard tore a tendon in the front of his left leg just below the kneecap. He will undergo surgery Sunday. "Dennis said he felt something pop," a club spokesman said.
Meanwhile, McGregor duplicated the no-hit shutout until yielding a clean single to left field to John Wathan with one out in the fourth inning. McGregor walked Amos Otis in the second and picked him off first, and walked Leon Roberts in the fifth and left him stranded.
Otis reached second on shortstop Ripken's throwing error in the seventh, but Frank White popped out to Murray to end the inning.
McGregor had won but one of five previous starts in May and had lost three of his last four decisions before mending his ways against the Royals. In becoming the third pitcher to shut out the Royals this season, McGregor stopped Otis' seven-game hitting streak along the way.
Armstrong pitched exceptionally well, too, except for the pitch to Murray that wound up on the rush of a strong wind that cut across the field, left field to right, as a lightning storm and light rain blew through the area.