BALTIMORE, AUG. 7 -- On a night when everything clicked, the Baltimore Orioles got a three-hitter from Ken Dixon and Mark Williamson and a pair of two-run homers from Larry Sheets.

The result was that a 10-game home stand began with the Orioles ending a four-game losing streak by beating the Texas Rangers, 9-2, before 33,657 at Memorial Stadium.

Right on schedule, too. After getting spanked in Milwaukee three times this week, they returned to playing an American League West team with the usual results. This victory ran their record to 39-25 versus the West, best in the league.

However, the Orioles are 10-34 against the East, thus their 49-60 disaster of a season.

Tonight, however, the news was mostly good. Baltimore got 11 hits off five pitchers, including reliever Steve Howe, back in the majors for the first time since Sept. 10, 1985.

Howe, who says he has taken more than 200 drug tests in the last 12 months to show he should get another chance, made his return successful by allowing one hit in two innings.

"It's no different than pitching at Oklahoma City," he said. "It's a ball field. It's the same game here, just in a little different area. This is how I pitch. I'm always around the plate. I've always used the other eight guys out there."

The Rangers (51-56) brought him up, hoping he can keep them in a jumbled American League West pennant race, and they seemed more than happy with him.

"For a guy who hasn't pitched in the big leagues in two years, and with all the hoopla surrounding it, I thought he went about it real well," Rangers pitching coach Tom House said.

Other than Howe, there wasn't much good news for the Rangers, who trailed by 5-0 after an inning and 7-0 after three. Cal Ripken Jr. and Sheets homered for a 5-0 lead in the first, and the only question was how far Dixon (5-8) would go and how well he would pitch.

The answer was seven innings and excellently. He retired the first 17 Rangers before Bob Brower singled in the sixth. He then lost his shutout on Ruben Sierra's two-run homer in the seventh and left after that inning because his shoulder tightened. Williamson pitched hitless relief.

"I didn't have much of a fastball tonight," Dixon said. "When I came in the dugout after the first inning, they only had me at 88 mph. That concerned me because early in games I'm usually at 91-92 mph. But I did have good location, and, since I'd faced them last weekend, Terry {Kennedy} and I had a pretty good idea of what to do."

Dixon was supposed to be the cornerstone of the Orioles' staff this year, but, 109 games into the season he has won only three starts, all against the Rangers (he's 0-4 with an 8.63 ERA against everyone else).

Tonight, however, he was very sharp, walking none and striking out seven. His location was so good he didn't have a three-ball count on any of the 24 hitters he faced.

"The difference was he threw his straight change-up," Orioles Manager Cal Ripken Sr. said. "That's what he did last season when he had success. We've been trying to get him do that. Maybe he will now that he has gotten some results with it."

Dixon said he never thought about a no-hitter, not even after getting two outs into the sixth. "I don't think any pitcher who has command of his pitches thinks about it," he said. "You're just thinking about what you have to do to finish."

The Orioles jumped all over Paul Kilgus (1-4) for seven hits and seven runs in two-plus innings, including five in the first. That inning started with a single by Ken Gerhart and a walk to Bill Ripken, and both scored on Cal Ripken Jr.'s 21st homer.

Eddie Murray grounded out, but Kilgus walked Ray Knight, and Sheets homered to right for a 5-0 lead. Kilgus left two runners on base in the second and was gone in the third after Knight and Sheets started with singles.

After Manager Bobby Valentine brought in Jose Guzman, Lee Lacy sacrificed. Both runners scored when Kennedy singled.

Brower's single had broken up Dixon's perfect game in the sixth, and the shutout ended in the seventh when Curtis Wilkerson singled and scored on Sierra's 21st homer.

Guzman pitched two innings, Howe two, Jeff Russell one and Dale Mohorcic one. The Orioles scored their last two runs off Russell in the seventh. Murray led off with a single, and Sheets homered over the right field foul pole, the fourth two-homer game of his career.

With 53 games remaining, Sheets has 20 homers and 64 RBI, career-highs in both categories.

"Twenty homers is a plateau," he said. "It's something you shoot for."

Orioles Notes:

Sheets is the 17th player to hit two homers in a game against the Rangers this season. In his last nine games, he is hitting only .179. During this stretch, he's seven for 17 against Texas and zero for 22 against everyone else . . .

Cal Ripken Jr. is the second shortstop in history to have six straight 20-homer seasons. The other was Ernie Banks, who did it eight straight times . . . Sierra, 21, is the youngest 20-homer player in the American League since Eddie Murray, then 21, did it in 1977.