It didn't take Dan Ford long to make his return to the Baltimore lineup felt.

Activated earlier in the day, Ford homered three times today at the Kingdome. He also walked and beat out a bunt for a base hit as the Orioles dropped the Seattle Mariners, 4-2, for their 10th victory in 11 games.

When Toronto lost tonight to Kansas City, the Orioles found themselves tied with the Blue Jays for the American League East lead.

"Coming off the DL, I was worried about how I was going to start," said Ford. "I was very surprised how things went.

"Games like this, you never forget 'em."

Ford, who had been on the disabled list since June 22 after injuring his left knee in a game at Minnesota June 1, lined Matt Young's second pitch in the first inning into the right field bleachers.

He followed that feat with a two-out home run in the third inning. This time he pulled Young's first pitch down the line into the left field seats.

He hit his third homer leading off the ninth against Mike Stanton.

"The first one was a fast ball away, the second a slider in and the third a fast ball in," said Ford. "They tried moving the ball around on me and I was just looking for a way to put it in play. Fortunately, I was able to hit it out."

Ford became the second player to hit three home runs in a game at the Kingdome. Ironically, the first was Doug DeCinces, whom the Orioles traded to the California Angels in order to acquire Ford prior to the 1982 season.

"As far as the trade's concerned, last year was his year," said Ford, who had another three-homer game earlier in his career, for the Minnesota Twins. "This year, I hope, is going to be mine."

Ford, playing for the first time in a month, said he is fully recovered from his injury and ready to try to help the Orioles take charge of the pennant race.

"When I first hurt the knee, I played on it off and on," said Ford. "Then it really started bothering me and I decided I'd better take care of it.

"Now, I feel the way I did the first part of the season. I have no pain and I can do the things I'm capable of doing again."

Ford was denied an opportunity for a four-homer game when he walked in the fifth inning and came up in a sacrifice situation in the seventh. Young was warned for throwing at Ford in the fifth.

"When a guy hits two balls out on you, the first thing you do is back him off the plate," said Young. "That's baseball."

The loss dropped Young's record to 8-10. Sammy Stewart (3-3) won in relief, with Tim Stoddard striking out the side in the Seattle ninth for his third save.

Orioles starter Mike Boddicker held the Mariners hitless through three innings. But he struggled with his control. He walked Tony Bernazard in the second inning, Jamie Allen in the third, Bernazard again in the fourth and Pat Putnam in the fourth.

Finally, Steve Henderson produced the Mariners' first hit, a two-out single to left to drive in Bernazard from second base.

Allen got Seattle's second hit, a single leading off the fifth. And John Moses followed with a double down the left field line. Allen scored on a ground out by Spike Owen.

That finished Boddicker, who had entered the game with two straight complete-game victories, one a shutout of Seattle.

Stewart took over, and on his first pitch the Mariners attempted a suicide squeeze. But the batter, Bernazard, apparently missed the sign and took the pitch. Moses was caught in a rundown and tagged out by third baseman Todd Cruz.

The Orioles had opportunities in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings but stranded five runners.

They did score in the seventh. Rick Dempsey led off with a single into the left field corner. Thrown out trying to stretch a similar hit into a double in the fifth inning, this time he held at first. Stanton replaced Young and Ford bunted safely. Rich Dauer bunted foul with two strikes, trying to advance the runners. But Cal Ripken singled to drive in Dempsey.

Ripken went four for five, but was overshadowed by Ford's remarkable comeback.

The Orioles returned outfielder Mike Young, .214 in 14 games, to Rochester to make room for Ford, who had five homers in 52 games before being disabled.

"He picked a lousy time to come off the DL, as far as I'm concerned," said Seattle Manager Del Crandall.