Mike Boddicker today became the first American League pitcher to win 18 games this season and a stronger contender for the Cy Young award by pitching the Orioles to a 4-0 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers before a crowd of 22,822.

Lenn Sakata drove in the winning run with a single in the second inning and Cal Ripken broke a zero-for-14 streak with a two-run home run in the third, his 24th of the season. The Orioles got a final run in the eighth when Eddie Murray scored as reliever Ray Searage threw wildly on a pickoff try.

Boddicker completed his 12th game of the season, allowing seven hits. He has won eight of his last nine starts and is second in the league in shutouts (four), ERA (2.49) and complete games. He has worked at least seven innings in each of his 18 victories and has allowed no more than two runs in 19 of his 30 starts.

"He takes what he has on a given day and wins with it," said Ray Miller, the Orioles' pitching coach. "He's got to be the best fielding pitcher I've ever seen . . . He's such an intelligent kid. For example, he was worried about (Milwaukee rookie Doug) Loman because he hadn't faced him and because he said the guy looked so relaxed at the plate. So he threw him a curve ball and he hit it on the ground. Mike came back and said, 'He's going to have to hit curve balls the rest of the day.' "

Boddicker used all five of his pitches and even threw a knuckleball once to Cecil Cooper. "I love to see the look on their faces when I throw it for the first time," he said. But it was Boddicker's fast ball that proved best when he was behind in the count. "When I needed to throw a fast ball it was moving," he said, "so they were hitting some ground balls."

Boddicker gave up a hit in each of the first four innings before retiring the next 10 batters. By the time Milwaukee starter Bob Gibson (0-3) left in the eighth, the Orioles were up, 3-0.

Sakata, who started in place of second baseman Rich Dauer, drove in Mike Young in the second inning with a single to left field to put the Orioles ahead, 1-0. Dauer did not play because an insect bite above his right eye affected his vision.

Ripken hit a 1-2 pitch over the left field fence to end a three-game hitless streak. Center fielder John Shelby, who stole his 10th and 11th bases of the season, had singled before Ripken's homer. "I was definitely aware (of the slump)," Ripken said. "In Detroit, I didn't swing the bat real well, and the same thing continued when we first came home."

Murray followed Ripken's homer with a single to center, extending his hitting streak to 21 games -- one away from Doug DeCinces' club record -- but went no farther when Young struck out and Singleton grounded to second.

The Brewers were able to get only one runner to third base -- Ben Oglivie in the second inning. Oglivie was thrown out at the plate by third baseman Wayne Gross on a fielder's choice.

The victory, coupled with Toronto's loss to Detroit, moves the Orioles within 2 1/2 games of the second-place Blue Jays. And in everybody's eyes but his own, Boddicker, too, made progress. When asked who his choice would be for the Cy Young award, Boddicker said: "Phil Niekro. He's awesome. He's 45 years old. I might be dead when I'm that old."