BALTIMORE, JUNE 1 -- The Baltimore Orioles' latest loss was decided when Mike Davis scored on an infield grounder to break a tie game and the Oakland A's went on to a 9-6 victory before 18,857 at Memorial Stadium tonight.

The defeat was the Orioles' fourth in a row, and their roller coaster ride of a season appears to be headed on a hard downward spiral again.

The A's became the latest team to batter the Orioles (26-24), getting 18 hits off four pitchers. Those 18 included three apiece by Tony Phillips, Carney Lansford, Mike Davis and Luis Polonia, and they included six in the first inning off Orioles starter Scott McGregor.

But the game wasn't even that simple. Trailing by 4-0 after an inning and by 6-2 after 5 1/2 innings, the Orioles gained a 6-6 tie in the sixth, thanks to Terry Kennedy's three-run homer and Larry Sheets' one-run homer.

The Orioles hit three homers tonight. Mike Young got the other one in the third inning, giving the Orioles 53 in their last 23 games and 81 for the season.

No matter. Reliever Ken Dixon, being used for the seventh time in 10 games, allowed the winning run to score on Phillips' grounder in the eighth, and that was that.

Orioles Manager Cal Ripken Sr. praised Dixon, saying he pitched as well as could have been expected because, "I've just had to use him so much. I think I've worn him out. We've just go to get more out of our starters than we've been getting."

Essentially, he has been getting nothing. In the six games of this homestand, Orioles starters have allowed 25 earned runs and 42 hits in 25 innings. In all, the Orioles have allowed 49 earned runs in the six games, 13 of them in the first three innings.

"I just can't keep using four pitchers a night," Ripken said. "I don't know what I'm going to do, but I'm going to do something. I've got to get the message across that our pitchers have to start getting us into the seventh or eighth inning."

Still, after the homers by Kennedy and Sheets, they almost won anyway.

But in the top of the eighth, Davis led off with a single against Dixon, and after Stan Javier struck out, Polonia singled, sending Davis to third. Phillips hit a slow bouncer to second baseman Rick Burleson, who forced Polonia at second. Davis scored, and the A's got another run after Phillips went to third on Alfredo Griffin's single and scored on shortstop Cal Ripken Jr.'s error.

Davis then hit his 13th homer in the ninth for the final margin. Oakland reliever Gene Nelson (3-1) pitched 3 1/3 shutout innings for the victory, and Jay Howell got the final out for his ninth save.

"I don't feel fatigued at all," Dixon said. "I just didn't do the job. I had a good stuff, a good fastball. I think I had two strikes on everyone. I wanted Phillips to hit a grounder that could be a double play. I did jam him, but he just didn't get enough on it. If I get out of that, the other run doesn't score, and I don't even have to face Davis in the ninth."

The game appeared to be lost hours earlier when McGregor lasted only 31 pitches, allowing six hits and four runs in the first inning. As usual, not all the hits were searing line drives, but that's the way it is for a pitcher who has won just three of his last 16 starts.

Phillips led off the game with a single, and Griffin grounded into a double play for the only outs McGregor would get. Jose Canseco singled to left and Mark McGwire singled to right for a 1-0 lead.

Lansford looped a single to left to make it 2-0. Ron Cey then doubled to left, but Lansford held at third. Not for long because Davis looped a single to left for two more runs. That ended the night for McGregor.

McGregor said, "The game can be maddening. I felt like I was throwing pretty well, but the results weren't there. I threw the pitches I wanted, but I didn't get the results."

Reliever Jack O'Connor followed McGregor and allowed two runs in 4 2/3 innings. Meanwhile, the Orioles got one run in the second on doubles by Ray Knight and Sheets and another in the third when Young hit his third homer.

Those runs closed it to 4-2, but the A's scored off O'Connor in the fourth when Mickey Tettleton doubled and scored on Phillips' single. And they made it 6-2 in the sixth when Polonia (17-game hitting streak) singled, went to second on center fielder Fred Lynn's error and scored on Phillips' single.

But in the sixth, Eddie Murray and Lynn got leadoff singles, and after Knight flied to right, A's Manager Tony LaRussa brought in left-hander Dave Leiper to replace starter Moose Haas. Leiper fell behind Kennedy 2-0, and gambled with a fastball down the middle. Kennedy hit it over the right field wall for three runs and a 6-5 game, and Sheets then homered for a 6-6 tie.

"It's frustrating because we battled back," Ripken Sr. said. "We got back in the game, and we couldn't hold 'em. We haven't held many people lately."

Orioles Notes:

The Orioles have the seventh and 15th picks in Tuesday's amateur draft, the first time they've ever had two first-round choices. The No. 7 pick, their reward for finishing last, will be their highest selection ever, and the 15th pick is compensation for Cleveland's signing of free-agent catcher Rick Dempsey . . .

Their previous highest pick was 10th in the 1968 draft when they took shortstop Junior Kennedy. Because they've been so active in the free-agent market, the Orioles have had only four first-round choices in the last eight drafts . . . General Manager Hank Peters said he probably would take a pitcher with the first pick, but said fans shouldn't expect any quick help. "There's not anyone in this draft that you could project being up in September or even next season," he said . . . Outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. of Cincinnati's Moeller High School is expected to be taken by Seattle for the first pick . . .

Kennedy leads AL catchers with seven homers.