BALTIMORE, JUNE 9 -- He was their least reliable starting pitcher for a month this season, and two weeks after he was touted as the new star of the bullpen, Ken Dixon has become one of the Baltimore Orioles' least reliable relief pitchers.

He proved that again tonight when he was called in to protect a one-run lead in the seventh inning and turned it into a 2-1 Boston victory before 17,548, many of them booing, at Memorial Stadium.

Dixon (3-6), brought in to protect Dave Schmidt's 1-0 lead in the seventh, retired only six of the 12 Red Sox he faced and blew a save opportunity for the fifth time this season.

In all, the Orioles bullpen has lost 11 leads, 10 in the seventh inning or later -- a glaring deficiency on a team that has lost six games in a row to fall nine games out of first place and a half-game out of sixth.

Boston left-hander Bruce Hurst (7-4) was his usual excellent self, allowing only six hits. The run came in the first on Cal Ripken Jr.'s 15th homer; thereafter, only one Oriole reached second base as Hurst produced his major league-leading eighth complete game.

"That was a clinic on pitching," Orioles Manager Cal Ripken Sr. said. "I hope our people paid attention to that. He proved that you have to concentrate on every pitch. I hope Ken Dixon learned something from watching that performance."

Perhaps not. Dixon said he didn't pitch that badly, that only a mistake here and a mistake there beat him.

"Tonight, four singles won for them," Dixon said. "I know you're not pitching well unless you get results, but physically, I feel I'm pitching well."

The Red Sox tied it on Jim Rice's single in the seventh and won it in the eighth on rookie Ellis Burks' single, two of their 12 hits.

Since he saved three games in three days in Oakland two weeks ago, Dixon has made five appearances and has an 8.03 earned-run average in them. In his last three appearances, has failed to hold two leads and a tie.

The Orioles (27-30), who got a tremendous effort from Schmidt in his first start of the season and 15th of his six-year career. He allowed seven hits and no runs in six innings, striking out a career-high six.

Schmidt is only the third starter in the Orioles' last 31 games to pitch six scoreless innings. Although he didn't get the victory, he lowered his ERA to 2.52 and won a spot in the starting rotation.

"He sure will keep going out there," Ripken said. "He earned a spot in the rotation, didn't he?"

Schmidt walked a tightrope, leaving runners on base in every inning but the fourth. His biggest problem arose in the second, when Boston loaded the bases with one out.

He struck out Rich Gedman for the second out and got Burks on a grounder. After that, he allowed four singles and left with the lead.

"I like it," Schmidt said. "I think I can be a starter for us, and I think I can help. I was pretty tired at the end. I could have continued, but I think by getting us into the seventh, I did my job. I don't think anyone expected me to go nine."

The night unraveled for the Orioles a little after Schmidt put on the warm-up jacket for the last time. Marty Barrett started the tying rally in the seventh by hitting a two-strike curveball for a single.

"He had just struck out Burks on a good hard curveball, and then he throws Barrett a slow one on two strikes," Ripken Sr. said. "That's not good."

Barrett stole second, and Dixon walked Wade Boggs. He then went 1-2 on Rice and threw another breaking pitch, which Rice grounded to left for the game-tying hit.

In the eighth, more of the same. Dwight Evans led off with a single and was wild-pitched to second. Mike Greenwell struck out and Spike Owen grounded out. Dixon walked Gedman intentionally, then again went to 1-2 on Burks before giving up the single that won it.

Hurst made it stand up. Ray Knight singled in the sixth for Baltimore's last hit, and Mike Young was the last base runner on a walk in the seventh.

"The first couple of innings my timing was off a little bit," Hurst said. "Between innings, I was working with it, and it came around. I feel real comfortable, and I hope I stay that way."

Orioles Notes:

Catcher Terry Kennedy missed tonight's game after suffering a bruised right shoulder Monday. He was replaced by Dave Van Gorder.