NEW YORK, JUNE 17 -- It wasn't a difficult play, not by any stretch of the imagination. But when Alan Wiggins blew a game 24 hours earlier, it also had been on the most routine of defensive chances.

Tonight, it was Ray Knight's turn to shovel a little more dirt on the Baltimore Orioles. His seventh-inning throwing error led to two unearned runs and the New York Yankees' 4-3 victory before 30,267 at Yankee Stadium.

Knight misplayed an attempted sacrifice bunt by Willie Randolph in the seventh inning of a 2-2 game, throwing the ball wildly down the right field line. The error was his 11th of the year and it left two runners on base. Both of them scored, and the Orioles (28-37) were on their way to their 17th loss in 19 games.

In one of the Orioles' worst streaks in memory, pitching has failed them most consistently. But in the last two weeks, the defense has started to fly away, too, and tonight they made their 49th and 50th errors. By comparison, the Yankees have made just 39. At this pace, the Orioles would finish with 125, which wouldn't match last season's club record of 135, but it would put them in the bottom third of the major leagues.

Give Wiggins credit: When he made a mental mistake that cost the Orioles a game Tuesday night, he faced wave after wave of reporters and answered every question. Tonight, Knight did not.

"I don't have anything to say about it," he said. "A lot of things go into it, and I'd rather not say anything."

Orioles Manager Cal Ripken Sr., seeing his team blow yet another game, was less kind.

"I don't know whether he rushed it or not," Ripken said. "There again, you don't like to see those things happen. But they're part of the game. It's just tough when they keep happening to you."

Knight's error and the combined five-hit pitching of Dennis Rasmussen (5-4), Tom Stoddard and Pat Clements negated what was another good performance by Mike Boddicker (5-4).

He lost his third straight start, but allowed only six hits and two earned runs in eight innings, lowering his ERA to 2.82.

Rasmussen went seven innings and allowed three hits for the victory. The Orioles had only four base runners against him, and scored only on homers by Ken Gerhart and Mike Young.

"We can't get Bod any runs," Ripken Sr. said. "He goes out and pitches like hell, but he seems to be in the slot where he doesn't get any runs. He's certainly pitching well enough to win, and he keeps us in the games. If we get more pitching like that, we'll be in good shape."

The Yankees took the lead for good on Gary Ward's sacrifice fly in the seventh. That followed Knight's error and, later in the inning, Dave Winfield hit an RBI single.

The two teams pecked away at each other tonight, with the Yankees getting leads of 1-0 and 2-1, and the Orioles coming back to tie each time.

The Yankees began the scoring in the second inning when Dan Pasqua got a leadoff walk, went to second on Eddie Murray's fifth error and scored on Henry Cotto's RBI single to center. Murray's error played no part in the run since Pasqua would have gone to second on the play, anyway.

Gerhart's fifth homer tied it in the third, and that lead lasted until the fourth, when the Orioles were a victim of bad luck and bad planning. That inning, Winfield led off with a double and scored on Pasqua's single.

Winfield created the run when he broke a few feet off the base and appeared to be stealing third. Knight broke toward the bag, and Pasqua grounded his single into the spot where Knight had stood seconds earlier.

Boddicker left a runner on third in the fifth and the bases loaded in the sixth. Meanwhile, the Orioles came back for a 2-2 tie in the sixth on Young's seventh homer.

But they came apart in the seventh after Wayne Tolleson led off with a single. Randolph bunted a ball down the third base line. Knight raced in, fielded the ball and threw wildly down the right field line, allowing Tolleson to take third and Randolph second.

Ward followed with a sacrifice fly to left to score Tolleson and the Yankees took a 3-2 lead. Mike Easler was out on a grounder to third, but Winfield singled to center to score Randolph.

"Winfield got the hit on a fastball that wasn't in the spot Bod wanted it," Ripken Sr. said, "but it's difficult to criticize him because he makes so many good pitches. He doesn't make many mistakes, and everyone is entitled to a few when they're pitching the way he has been. It's when you give up six or eight runs that it becomes a different story."

The Orioles made it close tonight. Young led off with a single off Stoddard and, after Cal Ripken Jr. struck out, the Yankees brought in left-hander Clements to face Murray, who doubled to left.

A sacrifice fly by Knight scored Young, but Clements struck out Fred Lynn to end the game.

"Last night, we should have won," Ripken Sr. said. "Tonight, we could have won. But should-haves and could-haves are for the teams that aren't winning."

Orioles Notes:

In Tuesday's 6-5 loss, Orioles pitchers didn't issue a walk. That's the first zero-walk game of the year. Orioles pitchers have given up 12 or more hits 11 times in the last 21 games . . . This streak has raised the Orioles' team ERA to 4.88, the third-worst in the American League. Only Cleveland (5.10) and Texas (5.11) are worse . . .

Gerhart's homer was his first since May 19, and it came in his favorite stadium. Since breaking into the big leagues late last season, he has hit .421 at Yankee Stadium (eight for 19) . . . The Yankees have gone 7-5 since first baseman Don Mattingly was sidelined with a back injury . . . Since beginning 24 straight games against AL East teams, the Orioles are 1-12. They are 1-18 this season vs. Boston, Milwaukee, Toronto and the Yankees . . .

In the last two seasons, Boddicker has broken nine losing streaks of two games or longer.