BALTIMORE, AUG. 28 -- Last night fourth place, tonight fifth. Anybody for sixth on Wednesday?

The Baltimore Orioles continued their slide toward the American League East cellar tonight when they were blown away by the current occupants, the New York Yankees, 11-3, at Memorial Stadium.

It was the Orioles' fourth straight loss and 10th in 13 games, dropping them behind Milwaukee, which took over fourth place. Baltimore managed to stay a half-game ahead of sixth-place Cleveland, which blew a late lead against Boston.

Jesse Barfield continued piling up outstanding numbers against Baltimore with a four-for-four night that included his 20th homer, a triple, four RBI and two runs scored. Over what has otherwise been a forgettable season, Barfield has tormented the Orioles with 14 hits in 27 at-bats, including five homers and 12 RBI.

"I know I'm hitting well against them," Barfield said. "This is a good park to hit in. When I catch Baltimore I seem to be swinging the bat well. I'm getting pitches to hit and I'm not missing them right now."

In the eighth inning, Barfield lined a shot off the top of the left field wall, just missing a homer. He also failed to get a double when Brady Anderson played the carom perfectly, holding Barfield at first after a wide turn. When Anderson misplayed a drive into a triple in the ninth, Barfield could look back at his eighth-inning timidity as costing him the cycle.

"I could have had the cycle if I'd kept going, because he made a wide throw," Barfield said. "But I can't second-guess that. The ball falls right to him and he's a good outfielder. You have to figure he'll make a good throw."

The last time New York right-hander Mike Witt started here, on June 8, he injured an elbow, left in the second inning and spent two months on the disabled list. Tonight he breezed through eight innings, yielding seven hits and one walk in recording his third victory.

"Witt did a hell of a job on a hot, humid night," said New York Manager Stump Merrill. "He was cooked out there."

For Baltimore's Jose Mesa, three years and two elbow operations had passed since he last started in the major leagues. Tonight two homers worth five runs made his return, following promotion from Class AAA Rochester, a disappointment.

However, Manager Frank Robinson said he liked what he saw from Mesa: "He had a good fastball, a good slider and an excellent curveball. He made mistakes to Barfield and {Randy} Velarde, but I want to see him out there again."

Barfield's two-run shot shattered a 1-1 tie in the third. But the crushing blow came from the bat of Velarde, a .193 hitter who hit a two-out, three-run homer off Mesa in the sixth inning to make it 6-1. It was Velarde's second homer of the year and gave him nine RBI in 150 at-bats.

"I haven't had much going my way, but the main thing is to stay in there and plug away," Velarde said. "He threw me a fastball and I thought it was down the middle, but the coaches told me it was just off the plate. That's a good feeling, to pull a pitch like that."

Perhaps the best -- or worst -- indication of how far the Orioles have fallen was the way relief ace Gregg Olson was roughed up when Robinson chose to give him an inning of work in the ninth. Olson, who retired only one batter, gave up five runs on a double, three line drive singles, a hit batter and a wild pitch.

Olson heard some boos, perhaps the first of his Memorial Stadium tenure. Earlier Mickey Tettleton heard the sounds of discontent, on a night when his 135th strikeout tied the major league record for a switch hitter set by California's Devon White in 1987.

If the Orioles were continuing their August slide toward oblivion, the Yankees could see some light above the cellar position they have occupied virtually the entire season.

"We finally had some fun," Merrill said. "We're playing pretty good baseball, with good pitching and good defense. We're playing them one game at a time, but if we do our job and put some wins together, we're going to gain some ground on somebody."

By beating the Orioles for the second straight night, the Yankees closed within 4 1/2 games of the team they will play again Wednesday and Thursday.

Merrill joked as he ate a crab cake: "Maine crabs are a hell of a lot better." But when asked if he was trying to make the Orioles mad, he said: "No. Let them lie."

Robinson was just as upset as the fans with another sorry performance. "Of course I'm concerned. The rut is getting bigger. We're losing games we're not even close in, and when we get close we're not doing the things we have to do to win.

"Everybody here should be concerned and I'm sure they are, but the only way you're going to change that is by going out and doing it on the field."

The Orioles have not had a hit with a man in scoring position since Saturday. Tonight their runs were produced by Anderson's first-inning homer, Cal Ripken's sixth-inning triple that was badly misplayed by left fielder Oscar Azocar and Anderson's eighth-inning sacrifice fly.

That ball was misjudged by Barfield in right, but he managed to race back and grab it. It was the only time he looked human all night.

Barfield laughed when it was suggested that he was putting on a stretch drive in hopes of being traded to a pennant contender.

On that subject, Merrill said: "People are looking for guys who can provide some power down the stretch. You get those hopes on a lot of clubs in our situation at this time of year."