BALTIMORE, AUG. 27 -- The Baltimore Orioles' fortunes sagged to a new low tonight -- an almost daily occurrence of late, but one that was particularly irksome to them this time.

On an evening in which they sent the most sizzling of young hotshots to the mound while the New York Yankees countered with baseball's most luckless pitcher, the Orioles still could not reverse their recent losing ways. Andy Hawkins outlasted Ben McDonald and the Yankees prevailed, 4-0, before 24,589 on a blustery night at Memorial Stadium in which the Orioles fell to fourth place in the American League East.

The game ended with New York reliever Dave Righetti retiring pinch hitter Ron Kittle on a flyout to short center field with the bases loaded -- marking the first time in the contest the Orioles had gotten a runner to third base.

Baltimore starter McDonald lost his third straight game following a five-wins-in-five-starts beginning. In 7 2/3 innings the rookie right-hander yielded nine hits, including solo home runs by Jesse Barfield, Matt Nokes and Roberto Kelly.

Otherwise, McDonald had a respectable outing. He struck out five without issuing a walk, and the fourth run came after he had given way to Joe Price and Curt Schilling.

Hawkins was decidedly better, improving to 5-10 by limiting the Orioles to four hits over 8 2/3 innings and getting help from Righetti, who registered his 28th save.

Baltimore mustered only three singles before the final inning. The Orioles are hitting .225 over their last 20 games, and Hawkins handled them with ease. They've totaled three runs in McDonald's three losses.

"You can't win if you don't get any runs," Manager Frank Robinson said. "That's the bottom line. It was a good effort {by McDonald}. He made three mistakes, and they hit them all out of the ballpark. . . . We're just not hitting the ball."

The Orioles lost their third straight game and ninth in 12 contests. They've gone 6-14 since they last were at the .500 mark, and they've dropped 6 1/2 games in the standings during an 8-15 August that followed their best July in seven years.

Baltimore fell to 10 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox, winners tonight over Cleveland, in the AL East, its largest deficit since an 11-game bulge on July 6. The idle Detroit Tigers moved into third place by percentage points -- a perch the Orioles had held since July 21 -- and only a loss by the Cleveland Indians kept Baltimore out of fifth.

The last-place Yankees (54-73), who won for the eighth time in 11 games, loom 5 1/2 games behind the Orioles. Nokes had three of New York's 10 hits, and Rick Cerone's two hits included a run-scoring double.

McDonald surrendered a double to Nokes but escaped the first inning unscathed. He wasn't as fortunate in the second, when Barfield swung at a 2-2 curve that McDonald left belt high and over the middle of the plate and sent the ball a third of the way up the left field bleachers for his 19th homer and a 1-0 lead.

Nokes reached the seats off a virtually identical pitch an inning later for a 2-0 advantage. On a two-out, 2-1 curve that was a bit too high and a bit too far over the plate, the Yankees' designated hitter lifted a drive into the seats just inside the right field foul pole for his 10th home run.

"If I'd had the ball down in the strike zone, we'd have gotten out all three of those guys who hit the homers," said McDonald, who didn't yield a home run during his first five starts but has served up five -- three of them on hanging curves -- in three outings since.

The 22-year-old used his change-up more effectively tonight, but his major problem recently seems to be a limited, mostly two-pitch repetoire. A nasty forkball that one of McDonald's minor league catchers once described as "basically an 85-mph knuckleball" has been put on hold by Orioles coaches until next year, pending assurances that he can demonstrate adequate control of the pitch.

"I've felt limited sometimes," he said, "but when I can control the fastball and curve, I think I can get by. Tonight wasn't one of those times."

McDonald also pointed to the burden of pitching without run support, saying: "You approach things differently when you don't have the early runs up there for you, like I had my first few times out."

Kelly picked on an 0-2 fastball as he led off the eighth for his 13th home run. McDonald made the supposed wasted pitch on the outside corner a little too good, and Kelly poked an excuse-me shot that just cleared the 309-foot sign in right.

Meanwhile, Hawkins breezed along. He has had a bizarre season -- losing a no-hitter, having a no-hitter thrown against him (by Chicago's Melido Perez), and standing on the mound while the stadium lights went out.

But he has a 2.22 ERA over his last seven outings, and he has won two straight starts for the first time this season. In a season in which he usually has been very good or very bad -- he has a 1.14 ERA in his victories and a 7.24 ERA in his losses -- Hawkins was very good.

He wriggled free from a two-out, two-on predicament in the first by striking out Mickey Tettleton. Double plays erased singles by Tim Hulett in the second and David Segui in the fifth, and Hawkins retired nine consecutive hitters in between. He retired Cal Ripken and Sam Horn on hard-hit flyouts after walking Bill Ripken and Joe Orsulak in the sixth.

"I wanted that last out, and I'm a little bit upset," Hawkins said. "It's been a frustrating year, some incredible highs but also some low lows. . . . This is one of the highs, but you can't forget the lows."