Scott McGregor is a little young at age 25 to be resorting to the aging hurler's good friend, the blooper pitch.
But he is smart for his age.
"He's probably the most mature man on his team," says the Baltimore Orioles' pitching coach, Ray Miller.
In the bottom of the ninth inning tonight McGregor, with a one-run lead, faced the meat of one of the toughest lineups in the majors that of the California Angels.
Two bloopers and a fast ball later he was cruising to the dugout with a five-hit, 2-1 victory. Two minutes after that he was heeding the pleas of 25-682 fans and taking the victor's walk across the infield, hat in hand.
The Angels lead the American League West because their hitters make pitchers wake up in the middle of the night flinching.
But except for an occasional errant fast ball, McGregor had the Angels flinching.
He served a leadoff homer in the fourth inning to Carney Lansford, who clubbed his 11th of the year over the 360-foot sign in left field. It was an inside fastball.
Dan Ford followed on the next pitch with a high blast caught at the 360-foot sign in right. Another fast ball. McGregor was catching on. He started throwing more bloopers.
"It's my strikeout pitch," he said. "It used to be my No. 4 pitch. Now it's No. 2 and gaining. It took me five years to learn it."
The Orioles tied the game in the bottom of the fourth when Ken Singleton blasted a ball into the right field stands near the foul line. It was his 22nd homer, fourth-best in the league and two more than he hit all last year.
It remaind 1-1 until the seventh Angel hurler Jim Barr also ending with a five-hitter.
The Birds scored the winning run in the seventh when Gary Roenicke lined a single to left, Lee May walked and Rich Dauer slashed a single to left, scoring Roenicke.
Al Bumbry did yeoman's work in the middle innings. In the sixth Don Baylor sent a screeching shot to the fence. The Orioles' center fielder snatched the ball from atop the wall between the 385- and 405-foot markers. That also was a fast ball.
In the seventh Joe Rudi picked on a fast ball and sent Bumbry running again. The little speedster raced to the wall for the catch, then slammed into a fence stanchion and fell to the ground. He was dazed momentarily but stayed in the game.
In the ninth McGregor faced Ford, who came into the game at 292; Baylor 295, 23 homers and 86 RBI and Brian Downing; leading the league at .346.
Ford went down swinging on a blooper. Baylor grounded meekly to first on a blooper.
Then McGregor fed Downing a fast ball and the catcher thrashed it to the left.There was a brief silence before a cheer went up as Roenicke circled under the drive near the warning track and hauled it in.
"You've got to use your outfieders in this park," said the wise McGregor. "Humid night, the ball won't travel."
McGregor raised his record to 4-3 and said he felt strong all the way. He need to be, with hurling ace Jim Palmer on the disabled list until August 1.
McGregor was troubled by a score arm this year for the first time in his career. He has pitched strongly his last four outings and has regained his spot in the starting rotation.
The new change-up hasn't hurt him a bit.
He knew what was coming up in the ninth tonight.
"I figured if you're gonna go out, you may as well go out with a bang," said the California. "I decided to go with my best pitch." The change-up.
Six thousand "reserved" general admission tickets will go on sale at Memorial Stadium at 9 a.m. Saturday for the final game of the series Saturday night. Jersey night is expected to be a sellout.