When the Orioles returned from the West Coast 12 days ago, they talked excitedly about having a great home stand that would get them close to the Toronto Blue Jays, who lead the American League East.

But tonight, the Orioles' record on this homestand dropped to .500 when the Boston Red Sox took a 2-1 victory before 46,302 in Memorial Stadium.

The Orioles entered the game with a rare chance to pick up a game on Toronto, which lost earlier in the day to Detroit. But they could only get one run for Scott McGregor (4-5).

All Boston's Bruce Kison did, after allowing Eddie Murray's nobody-out, bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the first inning, was strike out eight in a seven-hit, 125-pitch performance that included pitches from every conceivable angle.

So, the Orioles still trail the Blue Jays by 6 1/2 games and could end this home stand with a 5-6 record, because they will face Boston's Dennis (Oil Can) Boyd Sunday.

Baltimore wasted McGregor's fourth consecutive standout performance. He didn't allow an earned run, but had a three-game winning streak stopped anyway. In 7 1/3 innings, he allowed nine hits, then Sammy Stewart came on to get a double play and keep the Orioles within a run.

But Baltimore had no more success with reliever Bob Stanley than with Kison. Stanley got the last four outs on strikeouts. In fact, 12 of the last 18 Orioles struck out, eight in the last three innings.

Kison (3-1) struck out Lenn Sakata and Floyd Rayford in the seventh, Wayne Gross and Cal Ripken in the eighth. Stanley came in to strike out Larry Sheets in the eighth, then blew away Mike Young, pinch hitter Jim Dwyer and Lee Lacy to end the game.

"Kison won by the art of pitching," Ripken said after going hitless in three at bats. "That's what pitching is: changing speeds, moving the ball in and out."

And, as Sheets said, "He does a lot of things. He dropped down, sidearm, against right-handers. He must throw a 100 different pitches."

Kison acknowledged: "The idea is not to make two pitches alike. I can't explain the strikeouts. I'm not a strikeout pitcher. I go for a strikeout if the situation dictates it, and a few situations dictated those tonight, but I don't dwell on them."

Stanley, who spotted his fast ball extremely well, gave much of the credit for his strikeouts to Kison: "He had the hitters all messed up before I even got in there."

The evening started with promise for the Orioles, who got a leadoff single from Lacy, a double from Gross and a walk to Ripken to fill the bases for Murray.

His fly ball did drive in one run, but Fred Lynn grounded into a double play and the Orioles couldn't score again. And they would leave six more runners on base, including two in the sixth.

Murray figured in Boston's two unearned runs in the fourth; so did Dwight Evans, who contributed with his base running.

Sakata did a great job stopping Evans' grounder and throwing across his body to first base. The ball stuck in Murray's glove long enough for umpire Larry McCoy to signal "out."

But Evans apparently kicked the ball out of Murray's glove and McCoy changed his call. After Marty Barrett sacrificed, Evans astonished almost everyone by stealing his first base since April 1982.

"That changed the whole complexion of the inning," Red Sox Manager John McNamara said.

Glenn Hoffman's single tied the game. Dave Sax, catching instead of Rich Gedman, got his first major league hit, a single that sent Hoffman to third. Reid Nichols' fly ball to right scored Hoffman, whose slide just beat Lacy's throw. Kison, with his 2-1 lead, would do just fine thereafter.

"We'll snap out of it," Orioles Manager Joe Altobelli said. "I'm sure, tomorrow. Like Shakespeare said, 'Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.'

"What did he mean by that? He meant tomorrow we're going to start hitting."

When one reporter asked Altobelli how big a 6 1/2-game deficit is, he smiled and said: "It's a lot when you're us, not as many when you're them. I don't know. You know, my answer is about as bad as your question."

Before the game, the Orioles put designated hitter-outfielder Dan Ford on the 15-day disabled list because of a sore left knee, on which he had surgery on last year. He had played in only one of the team's last 14 games and had only three hits in his last 33 at-bats.

Outfielder John Shelby replaces Ford. Shelby hit .289 in 51 games for the AAA farm in Rochester and led the team in six offensive categories.