The Baltimore Orioles may be playing inept baseball, but they can't complain about their luck.

The Bird's pitching and hitting wasn't much again tonight, but their stalling and pratfalling for the umpires benefit was first-rate.

Their slapstick filibustering helped them escape a probable defeat as the O's, trailing the New York Yankees, 4-1, after four full innings, had their game rained off the books just one inning before it would have been official.

The Yanks were so unhappy after this game -- which was delayed for 78 minutes before it was postponed becaused of unplayable field conditions at 10:44 p.m. -- that Manager Dick Howser said he would file a protest.

"(Earl) Weaver and his groundskeeper have done it again," said Howser, half-angry, half-resigned. "I'm going to protest all their obvious stalling tactics.

"Their grounds crew is either the fastest or the slowest in the league, depending on the score.

"That (goundskeeper) Pat Santarone has probably won a pennant for Weaver along the line somewhere. He knows just where to dump the water off the trap so the field's unplayable. They been doin' it since they were together at Elmira (in Class A).

"Now I've probably made Santarone mad and he won't bring me any tomatoes (that grow in the bullpen) this summer."

"Weaver's the master at stalling and conning the umpires," said Reggie Jackson, who had a two-run homer washed out. Oscar Gamble drove in the other two Yank runs while Ken Singleton had a solo-homer wiped out for the O's.

"Stall?" said the indignant Weaver, striaght-faced and pure as a diminutive deacon. "We were tryin' to get that game in.

"I know I ain't put the take sign on yet. We were swingin' at first pitches in the fourth. "I'm not sayin' how smart that was but we had some guys doin' it.

"It was the Yankees who were wastin' time scoring all those runs,"

Weaver's protestations could not erae the memory of Pitching Coach Ray Miller ambling to the mound, or Weaver making expeditions to home plate for discussions, or two Oriole outfielders staying in the dugout while the rest of the team warmed up before the drizzly fifth.

Eddie Murphy got the Oriole prize, however, for his imitation of a trained seal in a sea of mud as he pretended to slip, slide and generally turn into a pretzel as he took idle warmup throws before that fifth inning.

Ironically, the game was postponed, the rain had stopped at the moment -- but the infield was a quagmire. Had the umps brought out the tarp two innings earlier, the game would probably have been played to its nine inning conclusion. At midnight, the skies were still dry.

However, it was the Yanks who were begging the umps to try to squeese in five innings and forget the tarp.