"Steve Stone . . . who's he?" joked Oriole slugger Ken Singleton. Most of the baseball world knows by now who Stone is.
Stone is the guy who tonight won his 10th straight game, 10-3, over the rival Red Sox. He's the guy who is the winningest pitcher in the American League at 12-3. He's the guy who just was named the American League pitcher of the month for July, for winning five straight games and posting an earned-run average of 0.84. He's the guy who probably will be named the starting pitcher for the American League All-Star team.
"At least he'll be on our side then," said one Boston player. "Right now I don't know whether to laugh or cry. If crying would do any good against him I would."
Fortunately for the Red Sox. Stone wasn't in his top form tonight. He started strong, giving up only one hit -- a bloop single to Carl Yastrzemski -- through the first four innings.But he tired in the middle innings, allowing Boston seven hits and three runs. Baltimore reliever Tim Stoddard took over after 6 2/3 innings and held the Red Sox in check to earn his 11th save of the season, sixth in support of Stone.
"I didn't have the greatest stuff in the world tonight," Stone said, "but when you win despite pitching that way, you feel real good. It was the hottest night of the year that I've pitched and I had already thrown 116 pitches when Earl (Oriole manager Weaver) took me out."
Meanwhile, the Orioles put on an impressive fireworks display at the expense of four Boston pitchers, beginning with starter Mike Torrez. He barely worked up a sweat, throwing only 16 pitches -- 10 for balls and three for Oriole hits -- before he was yanked in favor of Dick Drago.
Gold stars went to Oriole batting heroes Rich Dauer (three hits, two RBI), Ken Singleton (game-winning RBI, double, two walks), and Terry Crowley (three hits, three RBI).
The Orioles gave Stone a 6-0 lead in the first three innings and coasted from there.
The Birds scored three runs in the first. Al Bumbry led off with a walk and moved to third on Rich Dauer's opposite-field single. Singleton singled Bumbry in on a drive off the rightfield wall. As a result, Boston relievers in the bullpen tripped over themselves hurrying to warm up.
Eddie Murrey walked and John Lowenstein drove in a run with a fielder's choice. Terry Crowley, who had missed several games with a pulled hamstring muscle singled to right for the Orioles' third run.
The Birds extended their lead to 4-0 in the second off Boston reliever Drago on a single by Rick Dempsey, sacrifices by Belanger and Bumbry and a run-scoring single by Dauer.
Boston's leaky defense gave the Orioles one of their two third-inning runs. After Lowenstein walked, Crowley singled to right and Dwight Evans bobbled the ball, allowing Lowenstein to advance to third. After taking Evans' throw, third baseman Butch Hobson threw the ball about 30 feet past second base, trying to get Crowley. Lowenstein trotted home with the fifth run. Belanger's double made it 6.0.
The Red Sox finally cracked Stone in the fifth with a pair of runs. After Yastrzemski grounded out, Hobson singled, Dave Stapleton tripled home a run and Garry Hancock singled Stapleton home before Stone retired the side.
The only other Red Sox run came in the sixth inning when Boston's "other" grand old man -- Tony Perez -- hit his 11th home run resulting his lead-leading 61st RBI.
The Orioles ended the evening by adding one run in the sixth and three in the eighth on two walks and two doubles. The crowning blow was a near-home run double off the right-field wall by Crowley, scoring Lowenstein and Singleton. That signaled the go-ahead for many of the more than 29,000 fans to ignite the homemade fireworks they brought to the game.
Crowley was lifted for a pinch runner and received a standing ovation. "The hamstring injury had been affecting my hitting," he said. "But I'm learning how to hit with it. The injury only hurts my running now but a week ago I was changing my stride."
Crowley and the playful Singleton were full of praises for Stone, whose next start could be Tuesday in the All-Star game in Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium as opposed to graffiti-scarred Memorial Stadium. But will Stone suddenly come down with a mysterious injury, which seems to have plagued so many All-Stars just before the game this year?
"I'd love to start," he said, ending further speculation.