Even though it has taken much longer than expected, the Yankees, Orioles, and Brewers have all begun to play well enough now to have a direct bearing on what is happening in the American League East. In fact, Baltimore's pitching staff recently worked 36 consecutive innings without giving up a run.
While it's extremely popular to knock George Steinbrenner, give the Yankee owner credit for having Roy Smalley around when Graig Nettles got hurt and Dave Collins available when Jerry Mumphrey broke a thumb. Incidentally, New York left-hander Ron Guidry is ahead of his 1978 pace when he went 25-3, with a 1.78 earned-run average.
''While I don't have the overpowering fastball I had four years ago,'' Guidry said, ''I seem to be able to get my pitches where I want them, and that can be effective too. Even when I don't have great stuff, I feel I can still go out and win on those days because of my control.''