On a day when he easily could have gone hitless, first baseman Eddie Murray had four hits and seven runs batted in, the last four on a wind-aided grand slam that put the finishing touches on the Baltimore Orioles' 13-4 victory over the Oakland A's today at Memorial Stadium.
If ever a team has played as if it wanted to lose, it was the A's this afternoon. They took a gorgeous, hot Sunday and turned it ugly right before the eyes of 31,181 Cap Day customers, most of whom enjoyed every Oakland misplay as the Orioles won for the eighth time in nine games and raised their record to 20-15. Oakland is 19-19 after losing two of three here.
"I wish I could have left [Mike] Flanagan in longer than the fifth," Orioles Manager Earl Weaver said of his starting pitcher. "But we were down, 4-2, and I didn't want to take a chance on it getting bigger. But heck, when you win, 13-4, you can't complain about anything."
Flanagan, hit hard again, was philosophical as always. "If Earl had known we were going to score 13, he would have left me in," he said with a smile.
The Orioles got 13 hits off four Oakland pitchers who threw a total of 160 pitches in eight miserable innings. But if truth be told, many of the hits could have been outs if the A's outfielders hadn't acted as if the ball was a dangerous weapon each time it came close.
"This was an embarrassment," Oakland Manager Jackie Moore said. "If you can't put the ball in play when they're trying to give you runs and you can't catch the ball and you can't get a guy out with two strikes and if you basically stink up the place, you don't deserve to win."
Moore was both succinct and accurate. Murray was neither. He refused to talk about his seven-RBI day -- which came on the heels of a four-RBI game Saturday. Asked why he didn't want to talk about the game, Murray, who often shuns the media, said, "Because I don't wish to."
The A's actually gift-wrapped this big day for Murray. After Oakland had scored a run in the top of the first, A's starter and loser Chris Codiroli (3-4) got two quick outs and should have had the third when Fred Lynn hit a line drive almost directly at Jose Canseco in right field.
But the rookie seemed to freeze on the play and the ball glanced off his glove for a two-base error. Murray promptly hit a ground ball just out of the reach of second baseman Donnie Hill to tie the game at 1-1.
The A's took a 2-1 lead in the third, scoring when Flanagan crossed up catcher John Stefero with two out and Bill Bathe on third base and threw a wild pitch. The Orioles tied it immediately on John Shelby's first home run in the bottom of the inning.
In the fifth, the game got out of hand. The A's took a 4-2 lead and knocked out Flanagan. Tony Phillips (who finished 10 for 13 in the series) doubled in Alfredo Griffin and Canseco singled Phillips home. Weaver went for Rich Bordi (2-0) at that point, and Bordi made the move look good by striking out Dave Kingman for the third out.
In the bottom of the inning, Codiroli walked Alan Wiggins but got the next two men out as Wiggins moved to third. Up came Murray. Codiroli jammed him with a slider and Murray hit it off the fists, a bloop single to left field to cut the lead to 4-3. A good piece of hitting, even if Murray didn't say so himself.
Codiroli then hit the slumping Cal Ripken with a fastball that appeared to just get away from him. That brought up streaking Larry Sheets, and he also fought off an inside pitch, hitting a ground ball just fair into the right field corner. There, Canseco bobbled it long enough so that both runners scored and the Orioles led for good, 5-4.
"Good hitting is contagious," said Sheets, now hitting .354. "The last couple days Eddie hasn't left too many men on base, so I was glad to get the RBIs when I had the chance."
That was all for Codiroli and, in truth, all for Oakland. The Orioles were handed two more runs, both unearned, in the sixth when left fielder Steve Henderson and center fielder Mike Davis did a superb Alphonse-Gaston routine on a Stefero popup and the ball rolled off Henderson's glove for a two-base error. Murray's RBI in that inning came on a bloop single to left that looked catchable. At this point, the A's couldn't catch a beach ball, much less a baseball.
"Hey, that's baseball," said Weaver. "Codiroli might have had the best stuff we've seen all year and we end up with all these runs."
Oakland gave Bordi one brief scare in the seventh when Griffin singled and Phillips walked. Hill then smacked a line drive to deep right field. If Canseco had been playing there, it might have been an inside-the-park home run. Instead, Shelby went to the track and made the catch. Bordi struck out Canseco to end the threat.
"When Hill hit the ball my heart fluttered a little," Bordi said. "He hit it hard and we were only up three. But then I saw John had it lined up. When he made the catch I just said, 'Thank you.' "
Murray might have said the same thing in the bottom of the inning. It was already 9-4 when Moore decided he had seen enough of the struggling Steve Ontiveros. He brought Jose Rijo in to face Murray with the bases loaded and two out. Rijo throws very hard and strikes out lots of people -- 57 in 47 innings before today. He also gets a lot of pitches up -- witness his 4.75 ERA.
Rijo got a 2-1 fastball up and Murray hit a high fly to right-center. It looked like a routine out coming off the bat, but it got caught in the jet-stream wind blowing straight to right and carried over the 376-foot sign. It was Murray's 14th career grand slam, tying him with Gil Hodges for eighth place all-time. It also gave Murray seven home runs and 28 RBI for the season.
"When he first hit it I thought it was in the park," Rijo said. "I really didn't think he hit it that good, but I guess he's a strong guy because the ball just kept carrying right out."