BALTIMORE, JUNE 23 -- They changed some faces and shuffled some more roles, but in the end, the song remained the same for the Baltimore Orioles tonight.

They lost for the 22nd time in 25 games, this time when Gary Ward's eighth-inning home run off new reliever Doug Corbett gave the New York Yankees a 2-1 victory before 27,187 at Memorial Stadium.

The 3-22 slump sent the Orioles scrambling to their record books to find a similar swoon, and they found there weren't any. The previous worst slump of 25 or more games came in 1954, the franchise's first year in Baltimore, when the Orioles went through a 9-42 stretch.

Ward's homer broke up a 1-1 tie and ruined what had been a good night for the Orioles, rookie Mark Williamson making his first major league start an excellent one, allowing one run in seven innings.

"He was really excellent," Orioles catcher Terry Kennedy said. "He went out there and took the bull by the horns. He kept us in the game."

Williamson hadn't started a game at any level since 1984, when he was pitching at Class A Reno in the San Diego organization. The Orioles have gone through just about every able body at AAA Rochester and Baltimore in a search for pitching, and Williamson was the ninth one and fourth rookie to start a game.

But the loss went to Corbett (0-1), who was signed during the day to provide help for a bullpen that has been tired and ineffective. He entered to begin the eighth, and Ward's homer was the only hit he allowed.

Manager Cal Ripken Sr. allowed Corbett to face Ward even though Ward had gone four for four with a homer against him before tonight. "I think the only time I ever got him out was when he doubled and I picked him off second," Corbett said. "The odds are in my favor I'll get him out someday."

Meanwhile, Rick Rhoden (9-4) and Dave Righetti pitched a four-hitter as the Yankees remained tied with Toronto for first place in the American League East. Rhoden's American League salad days may be tougher because after the game umpire Dave Phillips showed reporters three baseballs that had been scuffed across the words "American League."

They all had been thrown by Rhoden, all had reacted oddly and all presumably had been scuffed by Rhoden. They'll be turned over to the league office.

"We kept several of the balls before we checked him {in the seventh}," Phillips said. "We wanted to be sure we knew what we were talking about. If we'd have found another, he'd have been thrown out of the game."

The Orioles were so certain they saw illegal pitches from Rhoden last week in New York that General Manager Hank Peters complained to AL President Bobby Brown, who, in turn, was on hand for tonight's game.

Their complaint stemmed from an incident when Rhoden struck out Larry Sheets on an odd-looking pitch. Sheets asked that the ball be checked, and when it was, home plate umpire Tim McClelland found scuff marks.

"The ball moved in a way it shouldn't have been able to move," Sheets said.

Instead of penalizing Rhoden, McClelland tossed the ball away, and Peters said, "That's no punishment. He only throws it when he's in trouble and needs a strikeout. He might think twice if you award the batter first base, and give the runners on base two bases. Earl {Weaver} used to say, 'Why not just tear up the rule book if you're not going to follow it?' "

Tonight, the umpires did do something. When Rhoden threw a 2-2 pitch to Sheets in the seventh, home plate umpire Dan Morrison retrieved the ball and took it out to Rhoden, who was warned. The Yankees dismissed the problem.

"I know my pitcher's clean," Manager Lou Piniella said. "The ball was sinking; he was throwing strikes. That's all."

Rhoden added, "They were trying to disrupt me. I was pitching a good ball game, and they were trying to get to me."

Rhoden went seven innings, retired the first 15 batters, and allowed the Baltimore run on Kennedy's homer. Righetti pitched the eighth and ninth for his 15th save.

The only run off Williamson came in the third. Willie Randolph sliced a two-out single to right, stole second and scored on Claudell Washington's single.

For awhile, it appeared the only suspense would involve whether Rhoden would no-hit the Orioles, but that ended in the bottom of the sixth when Kennedy hit a 1-0 pitch over the center field fence.

The homer was Kennedy's 13th of the season, and 11 of them have either tied the game or put the Orioles ahead or within one run. But Ward's homer off Corbett added a new twist to a familiar plot.

"Williamson pitched very well," Ripken said. "He gave us a big boost, and we needed that. I'd like to have some more games like that."

Orioles Notes:

Corbett, 34, became available after a complicated eight-month journey through free agency and worked out for the Orioles in Orlando, Fla., before signing. He saved 10 games for the Angels last season and filed for free agency last winter, but like a lot of others, received no offers and eventually re-signed with the Angels and reported to their Class AAA team at Edmonton. They let him go again when they picked up Greg Minton.

The Orioles recently tried to sign former Yankee Bob Shirley, who instead went with the Kansas City Royals, and Peters said the search continues -- "We've got people looking everywhere for pitching. We're even looking at minor league teams to see if there's someone out there who might be able to help us." . . .

Mike Boddicker, who left Monday's start with stiffness in his right arm, said he'd be ready to take his turn this weekend in Detroit. He played long toss before tonight's game and said, "I think it's muscle fatigue. I don't plan on missing a start." . . . The Milwaukee Brewers have asked former Orioles reliever Tippy Martinez to try out for their Class AAA team at Denver . . . After the game, Ripken said another pitcher would be called up to replace Ken Dixon in the starting rotation.