The Seattle Mariners, forced to play catch-up since the second inning, caught the Baltimore Orioles in the eighth and then passed them in the ninth on a run-scoring single by Todd Cruz for an 8-7 victory tonight.

Bobby Brown, pinch-running for Gary Gray, who had walked, stole second base to set up Cruz's seventh game-winning hit of the season. Tim Stoddard (1-3), the last of three Baltimore relief pitchers, was the loser. Bill Caudill, who struck out the side in ninth, earned his eighth win in 11 decisions for the Mariners.

In a game between the American League's two hottest clubs over the last month, Seattle tied the game, 7-7, in the eighth when Dave Henderson singled, was sacrificed to second by Cruz and scored on a single by Julio Cruz. The Mariners had trailed, 6-2, in the third inning.

The scheduled starter for the Orioles, Jim Palmer, was scratched shortly before game time with a sore right elbow. His replacement, rookie Storm Davis, was ineffective, and Baltimore Manager Earl Weaver said his team had trouble adjusting to the pitching change.

"Our problem tonight was that it would have helped if Palmer had started and given us two or three good innings," said Weaver. "Every time you lose a starting pitcher, you lose a potential nine innings and that puts stress on everybody else. Terrible stress.

"The other thing was Sammy Stewart, who is pitching in Hagerstown tonight. That would have made a difference. But he is on rehabilitation leave."

The Orioles took a 3-0 lead in the second inning. Cal Ripken Jr. led off with a walk. After John Lowenstein flied out, Ripken advanced to third base on a single by Dan Ford and scored on a single by Joe Nolan.

Nolan and Ford moved to second and third when right fielder Al Cowens fumbled Nolan's base hit. They scored one out later when Al Bumbry drove a single over Cowens' head.

The lead quickly shrank. Davis didn't last long as the Mariners scored twice in their half of the inning.

Gray started the rally with a one-out single and moved to third on a double by Rick Sweet. Henderson doubled off the wall in right to drive in both runners, prompting Weaver to bring in Ross Grimsley from the bullpen.

Baltimore increased the advantage to four runs in the third on Lowenstein's 12th home run of the season, a three-run shot into the third deck in right field. It was only the ninth home run hit into the third deck here and the first since Eddie Murray's on August 25, 1980.

The Mariners cut the gap to 6-3 in the bottom half of the inning. Bruce Bochte doubled, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Cowens.

The Orioles knocked out starter Gene Nelson from the game when they loaded the bases with one out in the fifth. Singleton led off the inning with a walk, and moved around to third on consecutive singles by Ripken and Lowenstein.

Ford followed with a sacrifice fly to center field off reliever Larry Andersen.

True to the pattern established earlier in the game, the Mariners also scored in their half of the inning. Manny Castillo led off with a single, but Lowenstein kept the rally from assuming serious proportions with a fine running catch of Bochte's drive to left center.

However, Cowens walked and Richie Zisk hit a bloop single to right to score Castillo and send Cowens to third. Cowens came home on another wild pitch by Grimsley.

The Mariners broke the pattern in the sixth. After holding the Orioles scoreless in the top half of the inning, Seattle cut the lead to 7-6 with a run off Don Stanhouse, who started the inning for Grimsley. Henderson led off with a single. After two fly outs, Castillo was hit by a pitch and Bochte singled to drive in Henderson.