If the baseball folks gave out Oscars, John Lowenstein tonight would have earned the one for best actor.

Lying inert on second base after having been hit in the back of the neck by Oakland A's first baseman Jeff Newman's throw, the Baltimore Oriole outfielder apparently was seriously hurt. The 15,49 fans at Memorial Stadium barely made a sound as Lowenstein was carried off on a stretcher.

Halfway to the dugout, Lowenstein, whose play allowed Al Bumbry to score the winning run in the Birds' 4-3 victory tonight, rose and gave a double clenched-fist salute to the crowd. Robert Redford should act so well. d

I asked somebody how close I was to ther dugout," Lowenstein said in the clubhouse while applying ice to his neck, "but I got no response because no one was sure what I was going to do."

"He's a great actor," winning pitcher Scott McGregor chuckled. The left-hander won his fifth game in his last six starts with a tidy, 96-pitch six-hitter. He walked one, struck out six and permitted only two balls to be hit hard.

Unfortunately, both went for home runs. Rickey Henderson, batting .600 against Baltimore this season, unsuccessfully tried to bunt the game's first two pitches, then ripped the third over the left-center field wall.

The Orioles drew even in the fourth. Ken Singleton, hitting .517 in the last eight games, singled, took second on Rick Langford's balk, moved to third on Eddie Murray's long fly, and scored on Dan Graham's two-out, full-count single up the middle.

McGregor's second hard-hit ball was twice as damaging as his first. With one out in the sixth, Mike Heath singled. Three pitches later, he came home with Tony Armas on Armas' majestic drive over the 387-foot sign in right center, giving Oaklanda 3-1 lead.

"That wasn't a bad pitch," McGregor said.

McGregor was closer and in less trouble when Murray homered into the right field bleachers with two out in the sixth, halving the Birds' deficit. It was the switch-hitting first baseman's 11th of the season, tying him with Singleton for the club lead and extending his hitting streak to 16 games. Murray is 25 for 68 during the streak and has raised his average from .266 to .294.

Such activity proved mere rehearsal for Lowenstein's dramatics. The stage was set when Doug DeCinces led off the seventh with a single. Mark Corey's expected sacrifice turned into an unexpected single when second baseman Rob Picciolo took too much time covering first. One out later, Bumbry singled sharply to center -- so sharply that Dwayne Murphy threw DeCinces out by 10 feet. With Lenn Sakata due to bat, Manager Earl Weaver turned to Lowenstein.

"I asked him before the game what he could do," Weaver said, "and he told me he could hit."

Lowenstein had missed the last three games after reinjuring his bad hip, but he wasn't lying. He laced a 3-2 slider down the right field line, scoring Corey, who had taken second when DeCinces was out at the plate. Armas played the ball perfectly, firing a strike to Newman.

Bumbry, turning third, stopped. Lowenstein, turning first, didn't. Newman, thinking him an easy out, threw to second as Bumbry headed home. Newman may have been right, but no one will ever know.

If it works, great," Lowenstein said. 'If it doesn't, you look pretty bad. I guess I could have had a broken neck, but I didn't really think about it. And if it had hit me in the hip, I'd have gone down for the count. That would have been worse."