CHICAGO, JULY 21 -- This was the night of Ken Dixon's return from the minors, the night he was supposed to show the Baltimore Orioles he belonged in their rotation now and forever. He didn't.

On a muggy night when he was battered for five earned runs and eight hits in five innings, the Orioles got homers from Larry Sheets, Ken Gerhart and Cal Ripken Jr. to beat the White Sox, 11-6, before 12,789 at Comiskey Park.

The victory was the seventh in a row for the Orioles (41-53), and you have to go back to September of their last championship season (1983) to find a longer winning streak (eight games).

This was also a night that Sheets continued his emergence as a star. It was his two-run homer in the seventh that broke a 6-6 tie and got the Orioles back in front in a game they once led by 6-1.

The home run was his 16th and, 94 games into his third full season in the big leagues, he leads his team in hitting (.328), and his 16 homers and 52 RBI trail only Eddie Murray and Ripken.

Sheets, who's hitting .467 against the White Sox this season, had three of the Orioles' 15 hits, but they also got three hits from Gerhart and a two-run homer from Ripken.

Rookie reliever Mark Williamson (4-6) pitched four innings for the victory.

Even Dixon, on a bad night, had trouble letting the White Sox back in the game after the Orioles sent 10 men to the plate and scored six times in the third inning.

The White Sox had taken a 1-0 lead in the first when Ivan Calderon's sacrifice fly scored Daryl Boston. Gerhart tied it when he led off the third with his eighth homer, and he drove in the sixth run with a double to center.

After Gerhart's homer, White Sox starter Rich Dotson (7-7) walked Jim Dwyer, and Bill Ripken followed with a perfect hit-and-run single to right. Cal Ripken singled to left for a 2-1 lead.

Dotson got Murray on a pop fly, but then the White Sox came unraveled. Left fielder Calderon dropped Sheets' long fly, allowing one run, then Ray Knight looped a single inside the right-field line for another run. Terry Kennedy singled to left for a 5-1 lead. White Sox Manager Jim Fregosi brought in Bill Long, who got Mike Young to hit a force. But then Gerhart doubled for another run.

Dixon let the White Sox right back in the game when Ozzie Guillen led off with a single, and Harold Baines homered. The White Sox got within 6-4 in the fifth on consecutive two-out singles by Boston, Baines and Calderon. Then, with runners on first and third, Dixon got Greg Walker on a pop fly.

In the sixth, Dixon finished what he'd begun and what'd he'd been flirting with the entire night. A comedy-of-errors inning began with Carlton Fisk singling. Donnie Hill then looped a ball to right. Sheets called off Bill Ripken and dropped the ball.

Gerhart picked the ball up and, with plenty of time to force Fisk at second, threw wildly past Cal Ripken. Fisk, then seeing that no one was covering third, ran to third.

Steve Lyons hit a slow roller to the left of the mound. Dixon fielded it, fell, and allowed Lyons a single that loaded the bases. Dixon saved his best for last, hitting Kenny Williams squarely with the next pitch to force in Fisk.

Manager Cal Ripken Sr. brought in Williamson, who went four hitless innings. He got Guillen on a soft grounder to second (that scored Hill with the tying run) and Boston on a pop to short. He intentionally walked Baines to load the bases for Calderon, who took a third strike.

The tie didn't last. Murray led off the seventh with a double to left, and Sheets hit one of Long's curves over the center field wall.

Dwyer led off the eighth with a single and scored on Ripken Jr.'s first homer in 21 games. Reliver Jim Winn walked Murray, and Fregosi brought in left-hander Ray Searage, who walked pinch hitter Lee Lacy. Knight singled to make to make it 11-6.

Orioles Notes:

Despite a 3.56 ERA, Mike Griffin is being dropped from the rotation to make room for Dixon, who's scheduled to make his second start Sunday. However, Manager Cal Ripken Sr. tonight was reserving the right to drop Dixon and insert Scott McGregor in Sunday's game . . . Fred Lynn was on the bench for the sixth time in eight games tonight as he continues to be bothered by a sore thigh. He left Monday's game in the third inning, and Ripken Sr. said, "If I keep playing him, he's going to end up tearing {the muscle}. Then you're talking about him missing a month or six weeks, instead of a few days." . . .

Since 1982, Cal Ripken Jr. has played with 20 second basemen . . . To make room for Dixon, left-hander Mike Kinnunen was sent to Rochester. Those were the Orioles' 46th and 47th player moves. A year ago, they made 63 all season . . .

The Orioles led the majors in homers at the all-star break, but hit only three if the first five games after the break. So as play began tonight, they had 127 and had fallen behind Detroit (133) and were just in front of Oakland (126) . . . Williamson will appear at the Washington Baseball Store at Farragut Square between noon at 2 p.m. Friday . . .

Alan Wiggins, hitting .164 since May 8, was benched tonight. Dwyer started at designated hitter and in the leadoff spot. He had gone three for 27 with 12 strikeouts in his last 11 games. He hadn't played since July 9. He entered the game hitting .294 (seven for 24) with two homers against Dotson.