So, manage already.

What's a little 10-run deficit to a genius?

Anybody got Joe Altobelli's phone number in Rochester?

Jokes aside -- and nobody in the Baltimore Orioles' clubhouse was laughing after being crushed, 10-0, by the New York Yankees tonight -- Earl Weaver sees the problem now.

Altobelli couldn't solve it, so he's history. If Weaver doesn't find the answer, the Orioles will be second-division fodder again this season.

Quite simply, the problem is pitching.

Baltimore, baseball's best mound team for 25 years, has a team ERA of 4.22, which, in a big pitcher's park, is atrocious.

More particularly, the dilemma is surviving the early innings, especially the first.

Tonight, for the 22nd time this season, the Orioles came out of the first inning trailing. For the 15th time, a starter (Dennis Martinez) didn't get past the fourth.

"Throwin' a breaking ball over the plate when you're behind in the count is the secret to pitching. Always has been. It's harder to do than to say," said Weaver. "But it ain't as hard as we're makin' it look . . .

"I hope we get better at it, 'cause if we don't it'll be a long, long damn season."

The Yankees, who came here a flat fifth and dead in the water, left with a thundering three-game sweep: 10-0, 6-4, 10-0. That leaves them just a half-game behind the Orioles. Not since 1975 have the Yankees swept a series here, and not since the first three games of 1978 have the Orioles been trounced so badly.

Ironically, the last time an AL East rival came into Memorial Stadium and beat the feathers off the Orioles 10 days ago, the manager got fired soon afterward.

With Rickey Henderson reaching base 14 times in 17 plate appearances, with Ron Hassey hitting two homers this evening, with Dave Winfield hitting a 400-foot homer to complete a seven-RBI series, the Yankees outhit the hosts, .389 to .158.

Game-time temperature tonight was 76 degrees. The back of Weaver's neck hit 212 degrees in the third when the Yankees' lead reached 7-0. He conducted an extremely loud and lengthy discussion with rookie pitcher Ken Dixon. Actually, Weaver stood and screamed until he didn't feel like screaming any more.

"Unfortunately, Dixon just happened to be the guy out there when the time came to say some things," said Weaver, who now can officially be said to have returned to office.

His voice is once more a gravelly hoarse rasp and his choice of words will scour the chrome off a microphone.

Welcome home, Earl of Baltimore.

When Dixon responded to his chewing by retiring nine of the next 10 batters, Weaver decided that "Dixon was our hero for the night. He put two zeros up on the board. We didn't get many others."

All the zeros belonged to New York's Ed Whitson, who dragged a 1-6 record and a 5.37 ERA to the mound behind him. His six-hitter looked like the work of a free agent earning $900,000 a year. Last month, he'd been torched in the early innings so regularly that surly fans started waiting for him in the Yankee Stadium parking lot to challenge him to fights. Once, a car full of detractors chased him out of the Bronx.

Now, Whitson seems straightened out. Maybe Weaver should take lessons.

This game started for Martinez with two walks, a steal by Henderson (his fifth of the series) and a wild curve that bounced 15 feet in front of the plate. After seeing that hook, the Yankees just sat on fast balls and murdered them.

Martinez was so distracted with Henderson on base that the Yankees' two-run first inning took a half-hour, even though only six men batted. Whitson actually went back to the bullpen for more warmups.

"If you don't throw the ball over the plate sometime," Weaver said sarcastically, "the game will never end. We gotta stop nibbling . . . Steve Stone came here, threw curves over the heart of the plate when he was behind in the count and won 25 games."

The Yankee happiest about seeing fast balls in the strike zone was backup catcher Hassey, who hit two homers in a game for the first time in his career. And Butch Wynegar thought he had a headache Monday night. Then, he only got hospitalized by a foul ball to the noggin in the on-deck circle. He's not back in uniform yet and now somebody's trying to get his job.

The Orioles (33-29) have plenty of headaches, from a five-game deficit to first-place Toronto to second baseman Rich Dauer's .176 batting average to their damaging 9-9 record in their longest home stand of the season.

Only two bright spots arose. First, Mike Flanagan threw so well in batting practice this afternoon that coaches had to tell him to cool it. He's a month ahead of schedule on his Achilles' heel rehabilitation and should be in the rotation after the All-Star break, if not sooner.

Also, the second inning brought a unique and amazing play. Lee Lacy forced Ken Griffey out at third base on a clean one-hop line drive to right field.

Maybe it's happened before in 116 years of pro baseball. Maybe not.

You get to write "F 9-5" in your scorecard only about once a lifetime.

Certainly nothing else this evening will be retold as often as the moment Lacy charged Scott Bradley's liner, short-hopped the ball and threw an on-the-fly strike to Wayne Gross (doing a first-baseman's stretch) to force the swift, stunned Griffey by half-a-step.

Veterans on both teams said they'd never even heard of such a thing. "Lacy was trying to throw it to second base," Griffey said, deadpan. "He didn't even see me. He just threw it so badly he got me by accident. Got hung up and ended up in history, I guess."

For Henderson, this was "the best series of my career." For New York Manager Billy Martin, it was "the most hard-hit balls I've ever seen in one series, especially against Baltimore pitching."

Orioles fans got so disgusted they started doing the Wave and ignoring the game. "I hate the Wave," said pitching coach Ray Miller. "But I can't blame 'em."

For the Orioles, it was the end of a two-week emotional roller coaster ride.

"Go home and enjoy your day off and come back ready to play," was all Weaver told his troops.

In the privacy of his office, he added, "I'm glad we're leaving (on a road trip). It's a shame people paid their money and had to watch those games."