Winning seems to come so easily for the Baltimore Orioles now. For the second straight night they punched out a weary Chicago White Sox team. Tonight the score was 4-1, enabling the O's to keep pace with the winning New York Yankees. Baltimore remains six games behind the American League East leaders.

The Orioles seem to be using the White Sox as a sparring partner for the 11 upcoming games with Kansas City and New York. Eight of those are against the Yankees.

Ken Singleton claimed the spotlight with a two-run home run and a run-scoring double. The double, in the first inning, was Singleton's 1,500th career hit. The booming home run drove in the winning run and helped Mike Flanagan (12-8) to his fourth straight victory.

The left-hander scattered six hits before Tim Stoddard pitched the ninth inning and gained his 16th save. The Orioles have now won all five games they have played in August and are cruising along at a .689 winning clip since June 15.

Singleton's 14th home run, in the third inning, was his first in 13 games. He was credited with his 11th game-winning RBI, tying him for second place in the American League with New York's Reggie Jackson behind Al Oliver of Texas, who has 13.

Singleton had gone hitless in his previous four at-bats on the home stand before he lined a curve ball off loser Britt Burns (10-10) for his milestone hit.

"I knew it would come," said Singleton. "I've really been hitting the ball well from the right side of the plate."

Flanagan, although never in any real trouble, did not pitch well for the first three innings and allowed Chicago its only run in the fourth on doubles by Greg Pryor and Oriole nemesis Lamar Johnson.

Oriole Manager Earl Weaver's hair grows grayer every time Johnson steps to the plate. The big first baseman is hitting .500 (21 for 42) with five home runs and 16 RBI against Oriole pitching this season.

After Johnson's double, Kiko Garcia's throwing error on Wayne Nordhagen's ground ball put White Sox on first and third with one out, prompting Ray Miller, Oriole pitching coach, to run to the mound to talk with his Cy Young award winner.

"I told him, 'i don't want you concerning yourself with the runners because neither of them are extremely fast,'" said Miller. "I just told him to keep the ball down and concentrate on the hitter. I guess it worked."

Flanagan retired the next 12 consecutive batters. He received an insurance run in the seventh inning on Eddie Murray's 18th home run, a high drive to left center field. Flanagan did not get good support in many of his earlier starts this season.

"It's about time we got him some runs, that's all I got to say," Weaver bellowed. "A few extra belts and Flanagan will win some games."

Flanagan admitted he was having trouble early in the game. "I was a little timid in the first couple of innings," he said. "My arm's been a little sore, but nothing I should worry about. I think it was a well-pitched game and I had some good defense. That's how we always do it, pitching and defense."

He is very much looking forward to the weekend Yankee series in New York after five lackluster games here with struggling Minnesota and Chicago. y

"It's going to be exciting," Flanagan said. "And I'll be looking forward to getting some excitement back."

There was quite a bit of excitement before and during the game as several Baltimore baseball writers, fans, and television commentators reacted -- mostly negatively -- to statements by Edward Bennett Williams, team owner, to The Washington Post about the Orioles' sometimes weak attendance. Williams and General Manager Hank Peters could not be reached for comment after the game.

The Oriole victory was the seventh in the last eight games and 12th in the last 14. The attendance was 21,538. The Orioles will try to even the season series (the Chisox lead, 6-5) Thursday night when the O's send Scott McGregor against Steve Trout.