The Baltimore Orioles nearly chased Charlie Hough and his knuckle ball in the first inning tonight, but he ended up pitching 8 2/3 innings, which was time enough for the Texas Rangers to win, 5-2.

"Hough kept the hitters off balance," said Orioles designated hitter Mike Young, who doubled home a run in the ninth.

Hough allowed five hits, then Dave Schmidt got the final out, leaving the Orioles with only 16 hits in their three games, all losses, since the strike ended.

In three starts against the Orioles this season, Hough is 2-0 with a 1.52 ERA. He has pitched 23 2/3 innings against Baltimore and allowed only seven hits.

"After the first inning (when he threw 39 pitches and faced seven batters), I don't think I was throwing a good knuckle ball," he said. "So I mixed it up the rest of the night. You enjoy winning games where you don't have good stuff and you have to pitch smart."

Veteran outfielder Gary Ward and rookie third baseman Steve Buechele hit two-run homers to support Hough (11-11), who struck out six and walked four. He retired 17 straight before Jim Dwyer doubled in the seventh.

Mike Flanagan (1-2) was the loser, allowing eight hits and all of the Rangers' runs in seven innings.

The Orioles took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Al Wiggins singled, stole second and third and scored on Cal Ripken's grounder. Although Hough walked three in the inning, the Orioles left the bases loaded when Young grounded out.

The Rangers tied the score in the third when Glenn Brummer and Curtis Wilkerson singled, Oddibe McDowell sacrificed and Buechele grounded out. Ward's two-run homer, his eighth, followed a leadoff walk to Cliff Johnson in the fourth inning and put the Rangers ahead by 3-1. Buechele hit his first major league homer in the seventh.

"God, it's exciting," he said. "It's a tremendous feeling to get that first one over with."

The Orioles scored their second run in the ninth on doubles by Eddie Murray and Young. Dave Schmidt retired Wayne Gross on a line drive with two runners on base to earn his fifth save.