CHICAGO -- The Orioles are scoring runs in bunches on this road trip, and Mike Mussina figured if he hung around long enough, he would get a chance for a victory last night. Manager Davey Johnson planned on taking Mussina out after seven innings with the Orioles trailing 4-3.
Mussina disagreed, in so many words. "What I actually said you can't print in the paper," said Mussina, whose instincts turned out to be on the mark.
The Orioles broke loose for two runs in the eighth and eight runs in the ninth and won, 13-4, a crucial victory in the three-game series with the Chicago White Sox. Cal Ripken drove in the tying run and scored the go-ahead run in the eighth, and Eddie Murray hit a grand slam in the ninth inning.
It was the 495th homer of Murray's career, and the 18th career grand slam, tying him with Willie McCovey for second place on the all-time list. Lou Gehrig is first, with 23.
Mussina continued to take a beating in his losing battle with Frank Thomas, but lasted 7 2/3 innings and improved his record to 14-8.
The Orioles drew to within three games of the White Sox in the AL wild-card race, and if they win today, they will have won a series against a team over .500 for the first time since May 17-19, when they took two of three from the Seattle Mariners.
"We waited until the ninth inning and we really started hitting the ball," Murray said, "and it fell in for us. . . . Right now, [the wild card] is our best shot. You can't expect the Yankees [who are eight games ahead of the Orioles] to fall back that far. You've just got to go out and play good ball."
The Orioles have played solid baseball on this trip, winning nine of 12. But after losing Friday night, a loss to the White Sox last night would have robbed the Orioles of much of the momentum && gained on this trip. They would have gone into today's game fending off a possible sweep by Chicago, and the Orioles would have dropped far behind the White Sox in the wild-card standings. "We would've been scrambling for a win," Mussina said.
The White Sox took an early 2-0 lead, the second run coming on an RBI single in the third by Thomas, who began the game with a .563 career average against Mussina, including five doubles and five homers in 32 at-bats.
For some bizarre, inexplicable reason, Thomas hits Mussina as he might hit a replacement pitcher. Mussina lost his major-league debut to the White Sox, 1-0, in 1991. The one run came on a homer by Thomas, and since then, Mussina has searched for a way to get Thomas out, without success.
Roberto Alomar jump-started the Orioles offense in the fifth when he muscled a pitch down and in and drove a high fly several feet over the wall in left for a three-run homer.
But after Ray Durham's weak leadoff single in the sixth, Thomas hit his 25th home run, crushing a two-run shot to center off Mussina, who turned away with the slightest hint of a grin, as if in disgust: What do I have to do?
Mussina, down 4-3 and working on three days' rest for the first time, held off the White Sox through the seventh, and after the inning, he was informed he was being removed. "Why are you taking me out?" Mussina asked in a loud voice.
"Do you want to stay in?" Johnson asked.
"Yeah," Mussina replied.
"Then stay in," Johnson said.
But before Mussina took the mound again, the Orioles would seize the lead against Chicago left-hander Wilson Alvarez, who had allowed only six hits in the first seven innings.
Jeffrey Hammonds laced a double into left-center to start the eighth. Ripken tried bunting Hammonds to third but fouled the ball off. Ahead in the count 2-1, Ripken took a pitch inside he thought was a ball.
Dave Phillips called it a strike, and Ripken kicked at the dirt angrily and barked at the ump. He started to step in to hit, but still angry, he stepped back out, kicking at the dirt some more.
Finally settling in, Ripken slammed a high changeup to left-center for a double, scoring Hammonds with the tying run.
Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, hitless in his previous 13 at-bats, pulled a high drive that landed at the base of the right-field wall, and Ripken scored the run that gave the Orioles a 5-4 lead.
Mussina retired the first two hitters in the bottom of the eighth, bringing up Thomas as the potential tying run. Johnson jogged to the mound, with right-hander Roger McDowell.
"I know you got the first two guys out this inning," Johnson said to Mussina, "but I don't know about this guy."
Mussina broke into a wide smile. "I understand," he said, and he and catcher Chris Hoiles and Johnson laughed as the manager called for McDowell. The sinkerballer retired Thomas on a grounder.
The Orioles put away the White Sox in the ninth. A walk to Mike Devereaux started the rally, and a Devereaux homer finished it.
In between there was another RBI hit by Ripken, another by Palmeiro, a bases-loaded walk to Bill Ripken and Murray's grand slam. The eight runs matched the Orioles' high for a single inning.
Johnson said: "What Eddie is doing is not going unnoticed by me. He's hitting great on this road trip, and somebody told me he's hitting about .400 with the bases loaded in his career, so I'd say that's a fair career."
HTC And a fair road trip. "We're 9-3 on this trip," said Mussina. "We have a chance to have the best trip we've ever had since I've been here."
Alomar said: "It's important to play good baseball on the road, and we've been playing great baseball on the road. That's a good sign."
Most grand slams
Eddie Murray's grand slam last night moved him into a tie for second on the all-time list:
1. Lou Gehrig 23
2. Willie McCovey 18
Eddie Murray 18
4. Jimmie Foxx 17
Ted Williams 17
Pub Date: 8/11/96
Opponent: Chicago White Sox
Site: Comiskey Park
Time: 2: 05 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Scott Erickson (6-10, 5.15) vs. White Sox's Kevin Tapani (10-6, 3.94)