KANSAS CITY, MO., JULY 19 -- He blew into their clubhouse eight days ago, looking like a 22-year-old Cabbage Patch Kid and sounding like every junior high's favorite brat. On a surly team headed for its worst record in 32 years, Bill Ripken was a perfect touch.

Today, he continued a remarkable beginning to his major league career by hitting a three-run homer to back an eight-hitter by Dave Schmidt and Mark Williamson and help the Baltimore Orioles to a 5-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals.

He had the biggest hit on a day when the Orioles (39-53) won their fifth straight game and completed their first four-game sweep ever at Royals Stadium. His hit provided all the runs they'd need as Schmidt was again terrific, allowing a run and five hits in seven innings to improve to 10-2 and lower his ERA to 2.95.

As a starter, Schmidt has been like a gift from heaven for a team desperate for starting pitching. In nine starts, he has gone at least six innings seven times in achieving a 4-1 record and 2.58 ERA. Opponents are hitting .221 against him.

"He had good stuff and made good pitches all day long," Orioles Manager Cal Ripken Sr. said. "He has really done a job for us, no question about that."

But the manager's highest praise was reserved for his youngest son, the one with the quick tongue and the even quicker glove. That son today finished a four-game series in which he went seven for 21 with a double, a homer and four RBI to raise his average to .259. The homer was his first of the season at any level and only his eighth in 1,757 professional at-bats.

"The atmosphere in our clubhouse is very good right now, and I think he has added to that," Ripken Sr. said. "His enthusiasm has been noted by people here. He has handled himself great. You never know with a young kid. He's had a lot to handle, but he's handled it. He has a good makeup to play this game."

He was expected to be more than adequate defensively, and he has been, handling 27 chances cleanly and taking pressure off first baseman Eddie Murray on one side of him and shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. on the other.

The Orioles had taken a 1-0 lead in the first inning, then, in the fifth, he got his homer on a grooved fastball from Bud Black (4-5). After he'd circled the bases and returned to the dugout, not one of his new teammates stood to congratulate him until he was well into the dugout.

"The silent treatment," he said. "It was expected."

He said he just "swung at the ball and hit it. I was looking for a fastball after {Alan} Wiggins had bluffed the steal on the first pitch. I figured he didn't want to throw me an offspeed pitch and give him a chance to steal."

Someone in the Orioles bullpen retrieved the ball for him, a souvenir of his first weekend in Kansas City.

"I think I'll probably remember this trip," he said. "I wouldn't say things have come easy, but my confidence is definitely a little higher than it had been. After the first two games in Baltimore, I was oh for six and scratching my head a little."

The rest of the day belonged to Schmidt, who was traded by the Texas Rangers two years ago and released by the Chicago White Sox last winter. He said he has wanted to be a starter since he broke into the major leagues six seasons ago, but had come to think he'd never get the chance.

"I got a chance in 1982 {as a rookie with Texas}," he said, "and my arm just blew out. Every time I mentioned it after that, they said your arm can't take it."

He became even more convinced it would be a good move last summer in Chicago after having long talks with Tom Seaver and Steve Carlton on the art of pitching. He said they drilled into him the importance of pitch location, velocity and movement, and that the more he talked to them, the more he thought "I can do that."

He has. He again showed the Royals a palmball, fastball and curve and was ahead in the count to almost every hitter. He threw 64 of his 86 pitches for strikes and extended his string of scoreless innings to 14 before the Royals scored on doubles by Willie Wilson and George Brett in the sixth.

"The key is to stay ahead in the count," he said. "When you do that, you can make them hit your pitch. This is what I've always wanted to do. This is what I always did in the minors, but I like to think I made myself into a pretty decent reliever, too. I'm grateful I got the chance. The Orioles could have brought someone else from the minors. They didn't have to send me out there, and I'm just happy they did."

Lee Lacy's fifth homer gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead in the second, and that's where it stood until the fifth. Terry Kennedy and Mike Young led off with singles and, after Ken Gerhart and Wiggins hit forceout grounders, Bill Ripken homered for a 4-0 lead.

If the homer surprised the Orioles, he certainly surprised the Royals. "I kind of thought, 'Of all people,' " Royals catcher Jamie Quirk said. "But you can't take anything away from him. He just mashed it."

Cal Ripken Jr. walked and Murray doubled to make it 5-0, and that was the Orioles' offense. Schmidt allowed only one runner to get as far as second base in the first five innings and left after seven, a victim of a hot, humid day.

Williamson finished, giving the Orioles a 2.50 ERA in their last six games.

"The pitching is the key in this game," Ripken Sr. said for about the ten-thousandth time. "When you get the pitching, you have a chance to win."

Orioles Notes:

Mike Boddicker is getting an extra day off before his next start and will do no throwing on the sideline because of his sore back. That means Mike Griffin will start Monday in Chicago and that Ken Dixon will rejoin the rotation Tuesday. Dixon finished his Rochester tour with a 4-0 record and a 3.27 ERA.

Boddicker, originally scheduled to start Tuesday, will go Wednesday instead . . . Scott McGregor will also rejoin the team by next weekend. His last Rochester start will be Monday.