What American League pitcher has the most victories in the 1980s (56) and the league's best winning-percentage of the decade, too (.659)?

This season, his 9-4 record puts him at a 20-victory pace, and, in his last 10 starts, as he's gotten hotter with the weather, he has an ERA of 2.29.

Today, in the home run heaven of Tiger Stadium, with the wind blowing out, he beat the Detroit Tigers, 7-2, on a quiet, yet commanding six-hitter in which he combined the three Cs of pitching: craft, cunning and control.

The far from trivial answer to this trivia question is inconspicuous, diligent Scott McGregor, the Baltimore Oriole who, absent any fanfare, is pitching as well as he ever has. Aided by home runs from Eddie Murray, Rich Dauer and Jim Dwyer, McGregor pitched the Orioles to their second straight victory--a pair of wins that have stabilized an Oriole team that arrived here with six losses in seven games.

McGregor's current streak of excellence--just 10 walks in those 10 starts and a 6-2 record--coincides exactly with the day his close friend Mike Flanagan was injured and lost for 10 weeks.

When Doctor Large went down, Doctor Small stood up.

"Flanagan's hurt. (Jim) Palmer's hurt. Dennis (Martinez) is having an off year. I'm the only one left," said McGregor.

"We're surviving, so we must be a pretty good club. Even with all the injuries, we've still got a good staff . . . We can stink worse than any club I've ever seen. But these guys don't care. They know they're good and they just come right back."

The key to the Orioles' survival in this pennant race--and, at 42-33, they remain in second place, one game behind Toronto--has been the leadership of McGregor, the emergence of Storm Davis and the improvement of Mike Boddicker.

This afternoon, as the Orioles scored six runs in 3 2/3 innings off Dan Petry (who shut them out last week in Baltimore), McGregor was calm and precise.

At one stretch, he retired 16 of 17 Tigers, and, in all, required just 105 pitches, many of them fast balls perfectly placed on the fists or changeups wafted over the outer edge of the plate. Only a solo homer by Tom Brookens and a tainted run in the ninth ruffled McGregor's pacific performance.

For two hours before this game, McGregor sat in the dugout, watching the scene, particularly batting practice. Almost everyone else in the crowd of 28,010 was watching the prodigious upper deck batting practice homers that Tiger Stadium's short porches elicit.

Perhaps only McGregor was counting outs.

"I watch the outs. Here's a coach throwing pitches 45 miles an hour, trying to put 'em right where the hitters want them, and they still make seven outs in 10 pitches," said McGregor.

"This game will work for you, if you'll let it.

"I can't stand sitting in the clubhouse and waiting. I'd rather be out in the fresh air with the distractions. I enjoy the distractions," said McGregor, uttering words to make many coach shudder.

"If you haven't done your homework, you can't figure it out two hours before the game. If you pay attention in every game, watch what you can learn from every hitter, then you don't go out there naked."

McGregor had the kind of support he loves most this hot summer day--early runs.

Cal Ripken and Murray doubled back to back over the third base bag in the first for a run.

In the third, after a Dauer single and a Ripken force (on which the Tigers botched a double play), Murray hit his second homer (No. 13) in two days here (48 RBI) for a 3-0 lead; the blast landed a dozen rows in the second deck.

After Brookens homered in the third, Dwyer opened the fourth with a solo shot into the second deck in the right field corner.

After Bumbry walked with two out, Dauer, hitting just .200, became uncharacteristically muscular, sending his third homer over the 365-foot sign in the cozy left field alley.

That was all McGregor needed, though Rick Dempsey beat out an infield dribbler and John Shelby doubled to left for a run in the ninth, breaking the spell of reliever Howard Bailey, who retired the first 15 batters he faced.

"The last few times against them, I stunk," said McGregor, who began his career 10-1 against Detroit, then lost his last four after the Tigers got more right-handed punch. "They like to run and hit and when you get ahead of them, it takes away some of their running game."

"It's a pleasure to play behind Scott," said Dauer. "If the sign says fast ball on the fists, or changeup away, you know he'll hit that spot every time. I can cheat six or seven yards on every pitch."

When the Orioles have been in deepest need, that's usually been McGregor's style.