The Baltimore Orioles began the evening by watching starter Scott Erickson get kicked around, and they ended it by watching reliever Mike Timlin give up another game-winning hit.

In between, there was a bit of everything else, but in the end it was more of the same as the Yankees defeated the Orioles, 9-8, tonight in front of 47,936 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Timlin entered the game in the top of the eighth with the score tied. He got the Orioles out of a bases-loaded situation, but lost the game in the ninth when Shane Spencer hit a fastball over the center field fence for his fourth home run of the season.

Spencer had the last of 16 New York hits against five Baltimore pitchers. Tino Martinez led the way with four hits and two RBI, and Chuck Knoblauch, Bernie Williams, Paul O'Neill, Scott Brosius and Spencer all had two hits apiece. The Orioles collected 13 hits, including three apiece from Harold Baines and B.J. Surhoff.

The victory pushed the Yankees (43-28) 15 games above .500 for the first time this season and helped them maintain a one-game lead over Boston in the American League East. Meanwhile, the Orioles dropped to 32-40 and fell 11 1/2 games out of first place. They have lost 15 of 19 games against AL East opponents, including three of four to Boston and New York in a week in which they were supposed to prove they could still make something out of this season.

"I feel for our ballclub," Orioles Manager Ray Miller said. "We battled our butts off."

Spencer's home run ruined a night when the Orioles had a stirring victory within reach. They were seemingly on their way to another dismal defeat when Baines hit a three-run home run off reliever Mike Stanton in the bottom of the seventh to turn a 7-5 deficit into an 8-7 lead.

But reliever Jesse Orosco gave up the tying run in the eighth, and Timlin allowed the game-winner in the ninth.

"We did some good things," Miller said. "We had a hit and run, stole some bases. . . . We just came up short. You just can't give up 16 hits and five walks and expect to win. That's what we did."

Miller said Timlin's problem was simple: He threw two straight balls and then was forced to throw a fastball to a fastball hitter. Nor did his problems start tonight. In his last 13 appearances, he has allowed 12 earned runs in 16 innings, raising his ERA from 3.14 to 5.04.

"I'm more concerned with Scottie," Miller said. "He seemed to be 2-0 on everyone. I just didn't know what the problem is."

Erickson allowed 15 base runners and seven runs in 5 2/3 innings. The Yankees had runners on base in every inning against him, scoring two runs in the first and sixth and single runs in the third, fourth and fifth.

Miller admitted he probably stayed with Erickson a hitter too long, but was trying to save the bullpen. Young Jason Johnson is scheduled to pitch against David Cone on Saturday.

"There's not much to say," Erickson said. "I've been bad for a long time. It stinks. They're a good-hitting team, and they don't let you get away with many mistakes."

Erickson departed trailing 7-4. Yankees starter Hideki Irabu wasn't much better, allowing four runs in five innings. But when Yankees Manager Joe Torre turned to his bullpen in the sixth, the Orioles got back in the game.

Baines scored on a passed ball to make it 7-5 in the sixth, and with two men on base in the seventh, Baines hit his second home run of the game.

It didn't last long. Scott Kamieniecki retired one of the three hitters he faced, and then Orosco, making his record-breaking 1,051st appearance in relief, allowed a game-tying RBI single to Martinez.

"Winning a game in somebody else's ballpark like this, especially when they have the lead late, is a huge lift for us," Torre said.

CAPTION: The Yankees' Bernie Williams is safe at third; the base's keeper, Cal Ripken, waits for throw that is late in coming.

CAPTION: Jerry Hairston comes in for a safe landing at second base because Yankees' Chuck Knoblauch isn't quite on the ball.