Tommy John's sinker ball was cooking tonight and the Baltimore Orioles went down like clay pigeons in their vain attempts to propel it past the Yankee infield.
The result was an impressive three-hit shutout for John in a 5-0 victory for New York before 18,367 at Memorial Stadium.
It was John's second straight win for the Yankees since joining the champions as a free agent from their World Series victims, the Los Angeles Dodgers, in the offseason.
John gave up two of the three hits in the first inning. A single by Al Bumbry in the third was Baltimore's last hit and the only Oriole runner after that was Rick Dempsey, on an eighth-inning walk.
Mark Belanger hit into a double play after Bumbry's single and Rich Dauer grounded into a double play after Dempsey's walk. So much for those Oriole threats.
John, recording his 34th career shutout, got 18 Orioles to ground out. After he escaped a shaky first inning in which the Orioles loaded the bases, the game was tightly in his control.
"He was throwing gravity balls," an impressed Baltimore Manager Earl Weaver assessed.
After a while the Orioles grew so frustrated they started complaining to plate umpire Bob Roesner to check the ball to see if John was doing something illegal to make it do the things it was doing.
"People will start doing that when you give them a lot of sinkers and they hit those ground balls," John said.
The Yankees got all five of their runs in the second inning, three on back-to-back home runs by Graig Nettles and Chris Chambliss. Nettles' was a two-run shot.
The first two games of this three-game series were heart-stoppers, each team winning one in the late innings. This one was not that exciting, thanks to John's mastery.
"It's good to get two out of three, but it would have just as easily been three out of three," Yankee Manager Bob Lemon said.
The Orioles started out as if not to let John stay around long enough to get his sinker going.
Belanger doubled past a diving Reggie Jackson in right field and Ken Singleton walked, occuping first and second bases with only one out.
Eddie Murray flied out to center, but it seemed the Orioles would get on the scoreboard when the next batter, Doug DeCinces, sent a hard grounder up the middle past John.
Fred Stanley, playing shortstop for Bucky Dent, who sat out the game with a sore elbow, made a diving stop keeping DeCinces' hit in the infield and holding Belanger at third.
The bases were full for Lee May. He grounded to Nettles.
"Fred made a super play on (DeCinces') ball," John said. "He scraped himself up pretty bad on the play, too. This is a great infield here (with New York) and with all the ground balls I get, the infield is one of the reasons I signed with this ball club."
The Yankees flexed their muscles immediately after squelching the O's.
Jackson opened the second with a single to center and Nettles rocketed a shot halfway up the seats, 400 feet into right field. I was the kind of drive on which no one on the field moves. Their eyes just turned as the ball sails away.
Chambliss followed that with a towering shot which landed in the right-field seats just inside the foul line. It was the second home run of the season for each.
Designated hitter Cliff Johnson doubled and Stanley sacrificed him to third. Mickey Rivers popped out to DeCinces, but Willie Randolph walked and that was all for Baltimore starter Mike Flanagan.
Tim Stoddard relieved and with a one-strike count on Thurman Munson, tried to pick Johnson off third. Stoddard's low throw get by DeCinces and Johnson scored, Randolph taking third. Munson singled to left to score Randolph and from then on the Yankees sat back and waited for the Orioles to serve up those easy ground balls.