BALTIMORE, JULY 18 -- Rafael Palmeiro's bat, Bobby Witt's arm and a couple of debatable decisions by Baltimore enabled the Texas Rangers to celebrate a rare 7-1 victory at Memorial Stadium tonight.

Palmeiro, nine for 13 in the three-game series, pounded out four hits tonight, including a two-run homer. Witt (7-8) threw seven solid innings and collected 10 strikeouts for the 17th time in his career.

Baltimore's Cal Ripken helped Witt escape a shaky first inning when he grounded out on the first pitch after Witt had walked three in a row with two out.

Then, with the game scoreless in the third, the Orioles defied the percentages on a hit-and-run, second baseman Bill Ripken covering the bag with a left-hander at bat, and paid dearly.

The result gave the Rangers their 15th victory in 54 games here since 1982 and took away the momentum the Orioles had generated by winning the first two games of the series.

Baltimore managed only one run from five hits and eight walks, leaving 12 men on base. The meager consolation for most of the 26,866 fans came from Randy Milligan's 19th homer and four sharply executed double plays.

Twin killings started by second baseman Bill Ripken ended Texas threats in the first two innings. The third might have ended the same way, as Jeff Huson, swinging left-handed, rapped a routine grounder toward the second baseman's spot with a runner on first.

This time, the runner, Gary Pettis, was off with the pitch and -- surprise -- Bill Ripken covered the bag. The ball rolled through the vacated spot and Pettis reached third.

"The first pitch of the at-bat was a half pitchout and I saw the second baseman covering," Huson said. "I just took a chance he'd be covering again. It was an inside pitch too and it just worked out."

Pettis scored the game's first run on a sacrifice fly by Julio Franco, thereby matching the run Texas scored when Baltimore defied baseball logic in a similar manner Tuesday. But this time the punishment increased threefold, because Palmeiro lined Dave Johnson's next pitch into the right field bleachers.

Manager Frank Robinson was philosophical about the wrong guess on the hit-and-run, but he was upset that Pettis, the No. 9 batter, reached on a walk in the first place.

"Remember how the inning started," Robinson said. "We talked about walks, who you walk and when you walk them. {Johnson} walked Pettis and in another inning he also walked Huson. You just can't do those things with the guys coming up behind them."

Scott Coolbaugh opened the fifth with a double and, after Pettis fanned, Huson drew that unforgivable walk. When Franco followed with an RBI single, lefty Joe Price was summoned to relieve Johnson.

Palmeiro, a left-handed batter, poked an outside pitch to left for an RBI single, and Ruben Sierra's sacrifice fly made it 6-0.

"When you have a good game, everything goes your way," said Palmeiro, whose three RBI gave him the team lead with 56. "I had a pretty good series, nine for 13 with seven RBI and two homers. It's not that great when you lose, but tonight our pitchers did a good job."

Witt was fortunate to survive the first inning. He threw 30 pitches to the first five batters, striking out the first two and then walking three in a row. It was at that point, after a visit to the mound by Texas Manager Bobby Valentine, that Cal Ripken grounded Witt's first pitch into an inning-ending force play.

"I was getting ahead of guys, but then I guess I was trying to get too fine and there were some pitches I thought were strikes that I didn't get," Witt said. "Bobby told me I had to throw strikes.

"I knew I had to go after Cal hard, with no mistakes, because he can hurt you. I gave him a fast ball middle away and I was happy he swung and hit a ground ball."

"I didn't think we had him reeling, but I thought we had a chance to do some damage and we just didn't get it done," Robinson said. "I don't ever feel you can win a ballgame in the first inning, but you can take advantage of a situation if it's presented to you and we didn't do it tonight."

Only twice more, except for Milligan's solo homer in the fifth, did Baltimore put runners in scoring position against Witt.

In the third, Phil Bradley and Milligan rapped back-to-back singles with one out. Witt then fanned Mickey Tettleton (No. 100) and Joe Orsulak.

A single by Orsulak and a walk to Cal Ripken presented a threat with none out in the sixth. After another visit from Valentine, Witt struck out Sam Horn, Craig Worthington and Bill Ripken.

The oppressive humidity and 127-pitch total finally got to Witt and Brad Arnsberg pitched the last two innings, walking three more.

"Bobby was throwing the ball good and there were some very close pitches," Valentine said. "He was very competitive all night and the only real concern I had was that he'd start thinking about the umpire. But he kept focusing on the hitter and got the job done."

The Rangers completed the scoring against Curt Schilling in the sixth and Schilling was fortunate to escape with only one run, although his erratic effort probably cost him a chance to break into Robinson's new five-man rotation.

Singles by Pete Incaviglia, Pettis and Huson produced the run. In the midst of the one-baggers, Coolbaugh backed left fielder Bradley to the fence with a long drive.

Ben McDonald, the fifth Baltimore pitcher, blanked the Rangers in the ninth and earned a promotion to a starting role in Saturday's game here against Chicago.

Nine errorless chances boosted shortstop Cal Ripken's streak to 87 games, one away from Kevin Elster's major league record.