Bedard gives O's shot in arm, earns first career win

In beating Mariners, 5-2, rookie allows two runs, four hits in 6 2/3 innings

Mora: 2 doubles, .383 average

Bedard's effort follows strong performances by Ponson and Cabrera

May 20, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE - The starting pitching had to improve. This much, the Orioles knew.

For six weeks, they were like a golfer hitting too many drives into the rough. From hole to hole, that can be overcome, but eventually it catches up to you.

The team's decision-makers were patient, and then the changes started coming in rapid succession. First Matt Riley was dropped from the rotation, then Kurt Ainsworth. Was Erik Bedard next?

Last night, Bedard put that question to rest. Returning to the form that made him the surprise of spring training, he earned his first major league victory, as the Orioles defeated the Seattle Mariners, 5-2, at Safeco Field.

Taking a cue from Sidney Ponson's performance Sunday against Anaheim, and Daniel Cabrera's on Tuesday against these same last-place Mariners, Bedard held Seattle to two runs on four hits over 6 2/3 innings, notching a career-high seven strikeouts.

"I'm real proud of the kid," Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said of Bedard, who underwent major reconstructive elbow surgery in September 2002. "He's come a long way."

The game was scoreless into the sixth, when Melvin Mora, who went 2-for-3 with two doubles to raise his major league-leading average to .383, delivered a one-out, run-scoring double against starter Ryan Franklin (2-4).

The Orioles padded their lead with three runs in the seventh, as Jay Gibbons hit his fifth home run, and they held on tight through a rocky bottom of that inning to win their third straight game.

Seattle finally got to Bedard (1-1) in the seventh. Rich Aurilia hit a run-scoring double, and the Mariners put runners at the corners with two outs when Mazzilli entrusted the lead to Mike DeJean.

Once again, that led to some anxious moments.

Jolbert Cabrera singled, trimming the lead to 4-2. Then DeJean walked Bret Boone on four pitches, loading the bases. With B.J. Ryan up and ready, Mazzilli had to be tempted to make the switch, but he stayed with the right-handed DeJean against the right-handed Edgar Martinez.

DeJean fell behind in the count 2-0 and 3-1, but Martinez fouled off a pitch, and DeJean caught him looking at strike three. Replays showed a fastball that started outside and tailed back toward the corner. Martinez had words with home plate umpire Larry Young, and so did Mariners manager Bob Melvin, but there was nothing they could do.

"That's a situation where [DeJean] has to get that out," Mazzilli said. "He has to get that out, so he gets that feeling he can do it, and I had B.J. ready for [the on-deck hitter Raul] Ibanez."

Ryan pitched a scoreless eighth, and Jorge Julio pitched the ninth for his seventh save. Luis Matos, who went 3-for-4, hit his fourth home run in the ninth, adding to Julio's cushion.

But as the Orioles congratulated each other in the infield, their biggest hero was Bedard, who came into the game with a 5.64 ERA after five unimpressive starts.

"You can't get down on yourself," Bedard said. "You've just got to go out and pitch."

This time, it was clear by the third inning, Bedard was in a special groove. He struck out the side, throwing six fastballs to Aurilia, catching Randy Winn staring at a 93-mph heater, and tying Ichiro Suzuki into knots. He started Suzuki by dropping a 79-mph curve in for strike one, pounded him with three fastballs, and finished him with another 79-mph curve.

"It made me think of spring training," Bedard said. "I was in control, I was following through, everything was clicking."

In the fifth, Bedard notched his seventh strikeout, catching Ibanez looking at a 91-mph fastball. Bedard had retired 12 consecutive batters when Dan Wilson and Aurilia drew a pair of two-out walks.

Unable to hit, the Mariners were taking a new tactic: patience. But that plan unraveled when Winn grounded to second on the second pitch of his at-bat, ending the inning.

The Orioles finally manufactured a run in the sixth. It started with Jerry Hairston, the No. 9 hitter, lining a two-strike pitch from Franklin into center field. Hairston's speed was an obvious distraction for Franklin, who started making a bevy of pickoff attempts.

When Hairston finally broke for second, he picked the right time, as Brian Roberts hit a bouncer back to the mound, but the Mariners had no chance for a double play. Still preoccupied with Hairston, Franklin threw a 90-mph fastball to Mora, who drilled the pitch down the third-base line.

Hairston scored, and the crowd, which had been quiet all night, drew to a hush.

Once he got the lead, Bedard lost his footing but recovered just in time. He started the sixth inning with a four-pitch walk to Suzuki. But Cabrera helped him out a little, fouling out to the catcher on the 1-0 pitch.

Then came Bedard's moment of truth. He induced a would-be double-play ball from Boone but botched it when he covered first but left his foot off the bag when he caught the relay throw from shortstop Miguel Tejada.

Bedard could have been out of the inning, but Martinez flared a single to center, putting runners at the corners. With a full count to Ibanez, Bedard got him to hit a weak little pop-up, that Tejada secured to end the inning.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Seattle Mariners

Site: Safeco Field, Seattle

Time: 10:05

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Rodrigo Lopez (3-1, 0.33) vs. Mariners' Jamie Moyer (1-2, 5.29)

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