Bedard savors first O's victory

`Everything was clicking,' he says after 6th start brings win over Mariners

May 21, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE - Erik Bedard had watched another Orioles rookie make it look so easy last week, as if earning your first major league victory was a rite of passage for anyone who got the chance.

Daniel Cabrera won his big league debut on May 13 with six shutout innings in Game 1 of a doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox. In Game 2, Bedard looked like he might get his first major league win before giving up a crushing three-run homer to Paul Konerko in the sixth inning.

It was yet another bump in the road for Bedard, who had shown so much promise when he first arrived in the majors in April 2002. Then came the elbow injury and the major reconstructive surgery.

After spending last season recovering, Bedard had a remarkable spring training and earned a surprise place in the starting rotation, but five starts into his season he was staring at a potential demotion.

By the time he took the mound Wednesday night against the Seattle Mariners, a game the Orioles held on to win, 5-2, he had already watched Cabrera notch another victory one night earlier.

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

This time, by the first inning, Bedard knew everything was different. He was commanding the outside corner with his fastball. He was throwing his knee-bending curveball for strikes.

He held the Mariners scoreless into the sixth inning, long enough for the Orioles to give him the lead, and manager Lee Mazzilli pulled him with two outs in the seventh.

Bedard (1-1) suffered through some anxious moments, as reliever Mike DeJean nearly frittered away his lead, but he came away with that elusive first victory.

"I'm real proud of the kid," Mazzilli said. "He's come a long way."

Bedard entered the game with a 5.64 ERA, but he held the Mariners to two runs on four hits, notching a career-high seven strikeouts.

He struck out the side in the third inning, blowing a 92-mph fastball by Rich Aurilia, getting Randy Winn to stare at a 93-mph heater and fanning Ichiro Suzuki with a 79-mph curve.

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

The Orioles had already dropped Matt Riley and Kurt Ainsworth from their starting rotation, and Bedard knew they weren't going to keep him in there if he didn't start pitching better. But those doubts were quickly put to rest.

After enduring a stretch in which their starting pitchers notched just three wins in 21 games, the Orioles experienced that phenomenon for the third game in a row. The streak started with Sidney Ponson's five-hit shutout of the Anaheim Angels on Sunday night.

Bedard got some help from Melvin Mora, who raised his major league-leading average to .383 by going 2-for-3 with two doubles. With one out in the sixth inning, he delivered a run-scoring double down the left-field line against Mariners starter Ryan Franklin (2-4).

The Orioles later got home runs from Jay Gibbons and Luis Matos.

But the game's critical stretch came in the seventh. Aurilia hit a run-scoring double off Bedard, and the Mariners put runners at the corners with two outs when Mazzilli entrusted the lead to DeJean.

Jolbert Cabrera singled, trimming the Orioles' lead to 4-2. Then DeJean walked Bret Boone on four pitches, loading the bases. With B.J. Ryan up and ready, Mazzilli 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 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 [on-deck hitter Raul] Ibanez."

Ryan pitched a scoreless eighth, and Jorge Julio pitched the ninth for his seventh save.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Anaheim Angels

Site: Angel Stadium of Anaheim (Calif.)

Time: 10:05

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

Starters: Orioles' Eric DuBose (3-3, 5.20) vs. Angels' Jarrod Washburn (7-1, 4.68)

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