The Baltimore Orioles premier magic act of 1980 was in vintage form tonight. Right hander Steve Stone boosted his record to 22-5 and recorded his 100th career victory with a four-hitter that throttled the Seattle Mariners, 5-1.
In nine previous major-league seasons, the 33-year-old Stone managed just 78 triumphs and was a sub-500 pitcher. This season, however, he can do little wrong.
Stone's worst throw tonight was to second base in the eighth inning. Only a fine effort by second baseman Rich Dauer salvaged a force play from what should have been an inning-ending double play. Joe Simpson then doubled in Seattle's only run.
That cut the Orioles' lead to 2-1 and had the 12,110 loyalists squirming. But Gary Roenicke's sacrifice fly and RBI hits by Rick Dempsey and Kiko Garcia put it away in the bottom half.
By sweeping the three-game series, the Orioles were able to divide the 12 game season schedule with Seattle, baseball's worst team. They could make no dent in their campaign to overhaul the Yankees, however, remaining 1 1/2 games behind as New York swept Oakland. $"It's frustrating, not being able to gain on the Yanks, but we had to sweep Seattle and we did," Stone said. "One hundred was a long time coming and I'm glad to get it. I ought to get to a hundred four or five before the season's over."
Stone walked only two while throwing 120 pitches over the nine innings, recording his seventh complete game in 30 starts.
"My control was a lot better tonight," Stone said. "I think I probably had my best control of the year in the sixth inning when I had to get Simpson, (Dan) Meyer and (Bruce) Bochte out with men on first and third."
With Baltimore leading, 1-0, Stone walked Larry Cox on four pitches and Cox raced to third on Julio Cruz's hit-and-run single. But Simpson popped up, Meyer flied to short right after spraying fouls all over Memorial Stadium and Bochte sliced a liner to left that John Lowenstein caught, on his knees.
"Pitching to Meyer might have been my best duel of the season," Stone said. "I threw to every zone, all four of my pitches, and he kept fouling them. It was kind of fun to have a battle like that."
Battling plate umpire Dallas Parks was less enjoyable and Manager Earl Weaver raced out to calm Stone in the first inning, meanwhile igniting a game-long quarrel with the ump.
"You make a pitch you think's a strike and he doesn't call it, sure you get upset," Stone said. "But I don't think he's had one of my games before and he had to get used to my breaking ball.
"I throw a high one that breaks at the belt and one that starts at the belt and breaks about the knee. I talked to him and said if he wouldn't give me the high one, maybe he'd give me the other one. He said he would, so I adjusted and he was pretty consistent after that."
Seattle Manager Maury Willis had another tough night. On Tuesday, Wills ordered Eddie Murray passed in the first inning with Al Bumbry on second and two out. John Lowenstein then hit a three-run home run.
Tonight, with Bumbry on third and one out in the fourth, game scoreless, Wills ordered Ken Singleton walked intentioanlly to get to -- honest -- Murray. His line single to right produced the first run off starter Bob Dressler.
In the sixth, with the bases loaded, two out and a two-strike count on Dauer, Wills came out to talk to reliever Shane Rawley. Dauer drove the next pitch into center for a 2-0 lead.