BALTIMORE, JUNE 19 -- Casey Stengel once asked of his lowly, early 1960s New York Mets: "Can't anybody here play this game?" It was funny then because the Mets were so terrible.

This year's Baltimore Orioles have plenty of people who can play this game. But lately, like Stengel's Mets, they can't ever seem to win. And it's not funny.

Tonight, they roughed up one of the American League's best pitchers, Jack Morris -- almost knocked him out of the game. But they let him off the hook and the Tigers, with a two-run, tie-breaking rally in the eighth inning and some relief help from Willie Hernandez in the ninth, defeated the Orioles, 5-3, before 31,672 at Memorial Stadium.

Lou Whitaker scored from third on Alan Trammell's grounder to second baseman Rick Burleson for the go-ahead run, then Pat Sheridan sneaked a two-out single under third baseman Ray Knight's glove to score Kirk Gibson for some insurance.

The loss was the Orioles' fifth in a row, 15th in their 16 games and 19th in their last 21. Their home record of 10-23 is the worst in the majors and they have lost nine straight to the Tigers here. The Orioles are 1-20 this year against AL East Division opponents other than the last-place Cleveland Indians.

"I don't remember being in a stretch like this with any club I've had," Manager Cal Ripken Sr. said for what seems like the umpteenth time. "But when I come in everyday and make out the lineup, this looks like a pretty good one. Look at that lineup and tell me that's not a good lineup. Sometime, somewhere along the line, we will break through and score six runs in an inning and have our pitcher stop a club on two runs."

Not tonight.

Making his third start of the season, Dave Schmidt gave up three runs on seven hits and two walks in six-plus innings. Those three runs scored on three home runs.

Reliever Mark Williamson (2-5), who bailed Schmidt out of two-on, no-out trouble in the sixth, gave up two runs. But that was during a 1 2/3-inning stint, and those runs were the game.

The Tigers' sixth victory in seven games and 10th in 13 gave Morris (10-2) his ninth consecutive victory, the longest streak in the majors. In eight innings, he gave up three runs on six hits. He walked three and struck out six.

Whitaker led off the eighth against Williamson with a double that bounced over the right-center field fence. Designated hitter Bill Madlock sacrificed. The Orioles intentionally walked Gibson, who last year batted .385, with six home runs and 19 RBI here.

But Trammell, Gibson and Whitaker foiled that strategy, Trammell by chopping the ball so slowly that Burleson couldn't have gotten Gibson at second if he'd wanted to; Burleson threw home.

Whitaker, who says he's "not exactly the slowest guy in the world," beat the somewhat high throw with a headfirst slide around catcher Terry Kennedy.

"That was a great play on Burleson's part," Whitaker said. "I would have done the same thing. It was a great play all around, just great."

Ripken Sr. wasn't so enthusiastic: "He {Burleson} made a heads up play and, if his throw had been down a little bit, I think we may have gotten him. Terry might have blocked the plate a little better."

After Matt Nokes' fly to left advanced Gibson to third, Gibson scored on a play the quality of which was not an issue. Left-handed hitting Sheridan inside-outed a slow roller to Knight's glove side. Knight flopped himself at the ball, which bounced under him and into the outfield.

Morris, who, according to Tigers Manager Sparky Anderson, was "pooped going into the seventh" retired Fred Lynn, Cal Ripken Jr. and Eddie Murray in the eighth on four pitches. Hernandez got pinch hitter Ken Gerhart, Knight and Kennedy in the ninth.

"I've been going against Jack for 10 years," Lynn said. "And when he gives you a pitch to hit, you better hit it. He's a strikeout pitcher and you don't give a strikeout pitcher strikes; at least I don't."

You also don't let a pitcher such as Morris get up when you have him knocked down. The Orioles did that, too.

In the bottom of the first, Lynn, batting second, hit one of Morris' change-ups over the right-field wall for his 11th home run of the year. It was Lynn's 15th hit in 42 lifetime at-bats against Morris. Ripken Jr. followed with a line drive single to left, but Eddie Murray flied to left field and Jim Dwyer struck out swinging.

The lead didn't hold up long.

Darrell Evans led off the third for Detroit by hitting a homer, his 10th of the season, to the same spot as Lynn's.

In the fourth, Gibson struck out leading off. Trammell pulled a 1-2 pitch into the Orioles bullpen for his 10th homer. Three pitches later, rookie Nokes hit a towering homer to right, his 13th, making the score 3-1.

Murray singled with one out in the fourth, then Dwyer walked on four pitches. Nobody went any further. Knight and Kennedy struck out.

After Larry Sheets flied out to start the fifth, Burleson walked, went to third on Mike Young's single to right and scored on Lynn's single to right.

Next came a big surprise. With Ripken at the plate and the count 1-1, Young and Lynn worked a double steal that gave the Orioles runners at second and third with just one out.

Ripken at least partially did his job, driving home Young with the tying run on a ground out to second baseman Whitaker that also advanced Lynn to third. The run batted in was Ripken's 49th of the year. Murray, however, who came into the game with just one RBI in his last 16 games, failed to finish. His fly ball to right-center was too short to be a homer and too high to do the Orioles any good.

Morris, who had needed 13 pitches to retire the Orioles in the sixth, needed just seven to do so in the seventh. His teammates rewarded him with two runs in the eighth. @Caption: The Orioles' Rick Berleson throws for double play over the Tigers' sliding Lou Whitaker.