Heat as the buzz word in Memorial Stadium tonight.

It was heat that Detroit Tigers right-hander Jack Morris threw past the Baltimore Orioles, pitching a masterful six-hitter for a 4-1 victory.

It was heat, 85 degreees at game time, that helped bring out 51,464 customers on jacket night, for the third largest regular-season crowd in Oriole history.

And it was heat that could be detected coming from various corners of the Baltimore clubhouse after another of the disappearing acts of Jim Palmer (3-3), who left after two runs and two innings complaining of a stiff neck.

"Jim said his neck stiffened up on the left side, the whole left side," said Baltimore Manager Earl Weaver. "He called us out in the first and said it was stiff so we got Sammy (Stewart) up.

"After the second we just decided there was not sense in him going out there and giving up runs when he wasn't at his best."

Did Weaver expect Palmer to start when next his turn came?

"If I was a betting man I would figure that he'll bite the bullet and go out and try to give us nine innings next time," the manager said.

Finally, Weaver could resist no longer.

"How'd you like that statement?" he asked.

The Palmer controversy centered on one play. The Tigers had scored in the first on Champ Summers' bases-loaded sacrifice fly. In the second, with two out and Tom Brookens on third, Alan Trammell hit a ground ball to third baseman Doug DeCinces.

DeCinces, whose bad back still stiffens occasionally, never moved in front of the ball and it bounced past him for a 2-0 Detroit lead. It was ruled a single, although on replays it appeared more like an error.

Palmer looked miffed. He retired Steve Kemp to end the inning, then departed. He was not around at gam's end.

"I'm not going to comment on something like that," DeCinces snapped when asked if Trammell's grounder might have had something to do with Palmer's early exit. "How do I know if he's got a stiff neck?"

Trainer Ralph Salvon said Palmer first complained about his neck before starting Monday against the Yankees and throwing a five-hit complete game. It's been sore for a couple of days," Salvon said. "We've been giving it all kinds of treatment."

The other pitcher tonight, Morris (7-3), now has five consecutive complete games. His low, 90 mph fast balls produced 15 ground-ball outs and he had excellent control, walking only two batters.

"I had better stuff last time out against California, but I pitched smarter tonight," Morris said. "I mixed my pitches up better. I had to keep pitching tough because the pressure was on me every inning until the ninth."

The pressure was on because Stewart pitched superbly for six innings, giving up two hits while holding the Tigers scoreless. In the meantime, John Lowenstein got one run back when he waited on a Morris changeup and hit it high into the right-field stands in the fifth.

It stayed 2-1 until the ninth as the Detroit defense made three double plays, two on Ken Singleton.

In the ninth, Stewart walked Al Cowens. Former Washington Senator Bill Fahey sacrificed him to second, then Brookens was called out on strikes, and was thrown out of the game for flipping his bat.

Playing lefty-righty percentages all the way, Weaver elected to walk ninth hitter Lou Whitaker to bring up righty Lynn Jones, until then zero for four. Jones ruined the strategy, slicing a single to right.

Cowens easily beat Singletonhs throw home and when Rick Dempsey threw to first, trying to pick off Jones, and the ball deflected off Rich Dauer's glove, Whitaker scored. It was Dempsey's first error.

Those two runs made it easy for Morris to end the Orioles' four-game winning streak.

"Boy, I hope we don't have to see stuff like that too often," Weaver said.

"He (Morris) throws it 90 and he's got excellent control. Jeez, did he paint the corners with some of that great stuff."

"It's no disgrace," Singleton added, "to lose to a pitcher like Jack Morris. Guys are going to pitch well against us and when they do we're going to lose some games. But that's what it's going to take to beat us. It's just one game."

But, as usually happens after a quick exit by Palmer, an air of uneasiness hung over the courthouse.

"What are you trying to get me to say?" Weaver snapped when someone asked about the DeCinces non-error. "'Cause I'll tell you something: I'm not going to get started. I'm not going to say anything else."

Then he was off to take a hot shower.