Somewhere, Steve Comer must know he's the man who stands between the Baltimore Orioles and an 18-game winning streak.
Comer, who pitches for the Texas Rangers, has just one victory in 1982, and is the only pitcher to beat the Orioles since Aug. 20.
After the Orioles routed the New York Yankees tonight, 7-2, for the second straight time here, they had extended their increasingly incredible streak to 10 consecutive victories and 17 in 18 games.
Bizarre as it seems, only Comer has prevented the Orioles from a come-from-behind pennant push almost beyond comparison. He allowed back-to-back homers in the first inning on Aug. 28, then pitched his only complete game in more than three years in a 4-3 victory.
"You better believe I think back to that game," said Manager Earl Weaver tonight, after watching Mike Flanagan (13-10) win his fourth consecutive game with seven innings of cunning work.
"That loss belongs to one person -- me. I made out a bad lineup that night, played a hunch with somebody I won't mention 'cause it ain't his fault, but he killed every rally we had against Comer and he should never even have played."
Even as is, the Baltimore blitz stretches credibility. This evening, the Orioles finished with 14 hits, taking a quick 6-0 lead in a nationally televised game, and won as though the fifth-place Yankees weren't even in the same park.
"The truth is, nothing happened tonight," said outfielder John Lowenstein, who hit his 22nd home run of the season in the eighth. "We won so easily it hardly seemed like we played."
The Yankees' Rudy May probably had the answer for that. "You saw the game. We pretty much quit, just went through the motions," he said.
"Just like we did the game before. We're goin' nowhere. If we get behind by a couple of runs, we just want to get it over with. If we get ahead early, we wake up some."
Since Boston lost tonight and Milwaukee won, the Orioles lead the Red Sox by 1 1/2 games and trail the Brewers by three games in the American League East. On Wednesday, Jim Palmer, on an 11-game winning streak, the longest of his career, faces rookie Jay Howell, who has never won a big-league game.
"Baltimore looks great right now. That's as good defense as I've seen played all year in this league," said Yankee Lou Piniella, particularly impressed by infield stops by Rich Dauer over the third base line, Lenn Sakata behind second and a tumbling catch by Al Bumbry in center.
"The only question is whether they've made their move a little early and will flatten out too soon. It remains to be seen where they'll settle."
For the moment, the Orioles have leveled off somewhere above the stratosphere. In their 10-game streak, they have almost invariably taken safe, early leads, as they did tonight, then watched their pitching rotation smother any hint of resistance.
The Orioles did quick work this evening before 15,405 in Yankee Stadium, trying to push the Red Sox over the gunwales and make life more difficult for the Brewers.
By the bottom of the sixth, the Orioles had put a 6-0 lead on the scoreboard for Milwaukee and Boston to watch.
In the first inning, Al Bumbry walked off starter Mike Morgan, Glenn Gulliver singled and, after Ken Singleton and Eddie Murray struck out, Lowenstein singled home Bumbry for a 1-0 lead. Gulliver was, foolishly, thrown out stretching from first to third to end the rally.
In the second, the Yankees gave the Orioles a gift run. Cal Ripken Jr. got another leadoff walk from Morgan, then advanced as Willie Randolph, on a grounder, forgot to get a force out at second and made his play at first. That base ment a run as Rich Dauer, down two strikes, fought the count to 3-2, singled to left.
The Orioles made their breakout with three runs in the fourth. Lowenstein doubled off the 385-foot sign in right and Ripken sent him home with a double to left. A soft single to center by Joe Nolan scored Ripken, and Nolan came home when center fielder Jerry Mumphrey misplayed Dauer's line drive.
In the sixth, Gary Roenicke and Nolan singled, and Roenicke scored on Dauer's double-play grounder.
The Yankees scored twice in the bottom of the inning, but Lowenstein hit his home run, a 405-foot drive to right, in the eighth.