In his third start this season, on a blustery April night in Yankee Stadium, Stieb was experiencing one of those games that can imperil a pitcher's sanity. A dropped fly ball in the second inning had given the Yankees four unearned runs. There was a rain delay in the fourth inning. A mishandled ground ball led to a fifth Yankee run in the sixth. Stieb fought his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth, striking out Butch Wynegar on three pitches. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, had pecked away at three Yankee pitchers and had gone ahead 6-5 in the ninth. Still Stieb had every reason to feel apprehensive, even peeved. Every time his team had taken a lead in this long and imperfectly played game, it had found a way to give it back. It was cold and wet, not a pitcher's night, and because of the shoddy support he'd received, Stieb had already thrown more pitches—nearly 140—than he normally does in a complete game. And yet he bounded jubilantly to the mound to face the Yankees in the bottom of the ninth. And when he struck out Steve Kemp to end the game, he fairly leaped for joy.
His enthusiasm was scarcely diminished at breakfast the next morning. "It was a storybook game," he said. "Winning one like that is better than throwing a shutout. With all the mistakes leading to runs, it's a testing type of circumstance, a challenge." He smiled. "Of course, in the past, I don't know how I would've reacted to a game like that."
The fact is, he has found the one missing ingredient in his still new makeup as a pitcher: peace of mind. He has come so far in such a short time. And now, with everything apparently in place, there's no telling how much farther he can go.