The Steve Stone school of pitching was in session. Post victory school.
"Stone," said Manager Earl Weaver of the Baltimore Orioles, "throws his curve over the plate and then puts the fast ball by 'em when he wants to. It might not be that fast, but it looks like Bob Feller's when they're looking for the curve."
"That's right," Stone agreed after he won a career-high sixth straight game, 5-3, over the California Angels before 17,549 fans at Memorial Stadium tonight."If you can do that, you can win some games."
If you start his year from last July 22, Stone has had a very good year. He is 13-3 since that date, 8-3 this season. He is now the ace of a staff on which he was slated to be the spot starter. Tonight's triumph raised his two-year record at Memorial Stadium to 13-2 and boosted his team's 1980 record to 31-30, only the second time since April 19 Baltimore has been one game better than .500.
"When we left spring training, he was gonna be our fifth man and take some spots," Weaver said. "It's a much tougher way to pitch. Now he's put back-to-back complete games together on three days' rest, and he's looking real good.
"I don't know why people don't think he's a good pitcher. He'll have some bad games, but with a good team behind him he's damn tough."
Tonight, Stone had two bad innings -- the first and fourth. Otherwise, he was untouchable. He struck out 11, his high as an Oriole and one below his career best. He allowed five hits and two earned runs and extended to 21 innings his streak of not allowing a home run. Of his 132 pitches, 30 came in the first inning, when the Angels scored their first run.
"It was pretty simple," Stone said. "I gave up a hit (to Rick Miller), two walks (to Freddie Patek and Rod Carew) and the bases were loaded. I didn't have anyone else to blame, so I figured I should get myself out of it."
Mission soon accomplished, with minimal damage: Jason Thompson struck out, Carney Lansford scored Miller with a sacrifice fly, and Stone completed his great escape by getting Joe Rudi to foul to first baseman Eddie Murray.
The Angels, who lost their seventh straight -- eighth to the Orioles since July 19 -- and 13th in their last 14, were equally charitable in the third inning. Rich Dauer reached first on Patek's error and moved to second on Al Bumbry's single. Both runners moved up on starter Dave Frost's wild pitch, then scored one out later when Ken Singleton, batting .500 in his last 10 games, singled to right. In the first inning, Singleton had lined a single off the 376-foot sign.
After retiring seven consecutive batters following Bobby Grich's single in the second, Stone suffered a relapse of his first-inning maladies. A walk a single, a walk and a scratch single by Angel catcher Tom Donohue tied the game at 2. When Miller hit a slicing liner to left, the contest seemed sure to become untied.
But Pat Kelly, running full speed, made a diving, lunging shoetop grab to retire the side and possibly keep Stone in the game.
At least until the sixth inning, which Murray led off with his 10th home run, a 360-footer down the right field line. The Oriole first baseman increased his hitting streak to 14 games, during which he has raised his average from .266 to .295.
Stone, who retired 10 straight batters following Donohue's hit, received some breathing room in the seventh. After walking Dauer with one out, Frost left with a sore elbow. One pitch later, his replacement, Jim Barr, had a sore ego. Bumbry hit a rising liner toward the 387-foot mark in left center. The ball and center fielder Bob Clark arrived simultaneously. When Clark's glove came back over the fence, it was empty.