Most of the noise made tonight at Memorial Stadium involved several interpretations of a controversial second inning balk call that allowed the eventual winning run.

However, a larger factor in the Baltimore Orioles' 4-2 setback at the hands of Kansas City was the silence of Oriole bats and some lackadaisical fielding by Baltimore's defense.

The Oriole hitters have a grand total of 12 safeties in the last three games -- ableit two of those games were pulled out in the late innings.

But tonight's four-hit production against Royal starter Paul Splittorff was not nearly enough to prevent the home team from having its American League East lead over Boston trimmed to four games. The Red Sox beat Chicago, 7-5.

Kansas City's third run crossed the plate in the second inning with two outs and nearly every Oriole player and most of the 18,932 in attendance convinced the hosts had been jobbed by third base umpire Steve Palermo.

The Royals scored their second run when Todd Cruz sacrificed home Amos Otis in the second. Second baseman Frank White, who had doubled just before Cruz came to bat, reached third on the sacrifice, which was the inning's second out.

With Oriole starter Dennis Martinez set to pitch to Willie Wilson, White broke for home. Martinez threw to catcher Dave Skaggs for an apparent out to end the inning. But Palermo bolted toward the plate, frantically signaling "balk" on the pitcher, and the run counted since baserunners automatically advance on such a ruling.

Oriole manager Earl Weaver sprinted from the dugout like it was on fire. Predictably, Weaver and the Oriole infield lost the argument. And after some chin-to-chin chatter, finger-pointing, shoving and grabbing between manager and umpire, Weaver found himself tossed out of the game for the seventh time this season. At first, Weaver said he would file a protest, but later relented.

"How can you protest the game when the guy (Palermo) changed his story three times?" asked Weaver. "He made a call on a play that none of the other umpires saw."

Palermo explained. "Marinez disengaged himself from the rubber, then speeded up his motion to throw home. He interrupted his windup. It was strictly a judgment call on my part."

Said Skaggs, "A balk is for deceiving the hitter, not the runner. White was already gone. If Martinez stepped off the mound, it's a balk. But the umpire told us that he speeded up his motion.

"If he (Martinez) stays slow, White runs into the dugout before I get the ball. There isn't anybody in the league that doesn't speed up when someone is stealing home plate."

Oriole shortstop Mark Belanger had to step between Weaver and Palermo during the dispute after it appeared the two had made contact. Both Weaver and Palermo accused each other of initiating the contact.

"That's the first time the umpire has ever grabbed me," Weaver said. "The man should be in trouble."

Palmero countered that Weaver "almost poked me in the eyes and hit me across the bridge of my nose. I was protecting my eyes by grabbing him by the wrists.

"They gave him his title and his title is 'manager.'" Palmero said. "He has a different interpretation of that position than any other 13 managers in this league. Weaver has trouble with all the unpires. Where do you think the problem lies? He's bringing up chips on his shoulder. He's walking around with a block of granite on his shoulder."

George Brett's single that drove in Willie Wilson in the first inning opened the scoring. Wilson had struck out swinging against Martinez, but Skaggs' passed ball allowed the fleet left fielder to reach base.

In the bottom of the second, Baltimore made it 2-1 when center fielder Gary Roenicke smacked his 18th homer -- a two-out job into the left field bleachers.

Cruz returned the favor with a two-out round-tripper in the sixth for the insurance run and a 4-1 Royal lead.

In the bottom of the inning, Belanger walked to lead off, went to second on an infield out and scored the game's final run on Lee May's single to left field. Splittorff then retired the final 10 Orioles to deny Martinez (14-9) his 15th victory on his fourth try.