Tejada homer lifts Orioles in 11th, 3-2

Julio holds Twins for 2 innings to get victory

Bedard sparkles in O's return

Sosa home run provides 2-0 lead

Twins tie it in 9th

July 19, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS — MINNESOTA - With the deal to acquire Florida Marlins pitcher A.J. Burnett now apparently on hold, the Orioles are still looking for a pitcher to star at the top of their rotation. However for one night, they took comfort in knowing that they officially had their ace back.

They also welcomed back the home run bats of their two biggest sluggers. Sammy Sosa broke a scoreless tie in the seventh with a two-run home run and then Miguel Tejada smashed a shot in the 11th and Erik Bedard stifled Minnesota through six innings as the Orioles claimed a much-needed 3-2 victory over the Twins before 20,308 at the Metrodome.

For both Tejada and Sosa, it was their first home runs since June 18. Tejada's 420-foot blast off Twins reliever Juan Rincon on a 1-2 pitch that caught too much of the plate, couldn't have come at a better time. He pointed to the Orioles" bench on his way down to first base.

With Boston having already lost and New York losing in the late innings to the Rangers, the Orioles (50-42) hoped to grab first place in the American League East. They also moved a half game ahead of the Twins (49-42) in the AL wild-card standings.

Jorge Julio, who is part of the package the Orioles were shopping to Florida to try to land Burnett, pitched two scoreless innings to get the win., Closer B.J. Ryan blew a one-run lead in the ninth.

Torii Hunter hit Ryan's first pitch for a double down the right-field line to lead off the ninth and he came around to score when the Orioles couldn't field a sacrifice attempt by recent Twins acquisition Bret Boone.

Oriole first baseman Rafael Palmeiro fielded Boone's bloop bunt, but Ryan was late covering first, and then he dropped the ball while attempting to tag the hustling Boone. The ball trickled behind first and the speedy Hunter tied the game at two without garnering even a throw.

In his first start and nearly two months, Bedard showed no signs of pitched six innings, allowing only four hits, walking two and striking out seven. He threw 91 pitches, 60 for strikes, and finished by fanning the dangerous Hunter on an outside curveball to end the sixth inning. In his last seven starts spanning 50 innings, Bedard has given up just four earned runs.

Sosa's 421-foot bomb to left field off Twins starter Carlos Silva was his 10th home run of the season, but his first since June 18.

The Twins got the first run in the seventh, trimming the Orioles lead to 2-1, when pinch hitter Luis Rodriguez drove Jason Grimsley's sinker between first and second base for a single, scoring Michael Cuddyer, who had a one-out double.

Tim Byrdak and Chris Ray combined to get out of the eighth to leave the game in the hands of Ryan, who, like the flip from Palmeiro on Boone's bunt in the ninth, dropped it. It was Ryan's fourth blown save in 25 chances.

Bedard hadn't pitched in a major league game since May 21 when he threw seven shutout innings to beat the Philadelphia Phillies at Camden Yards. It was also in that game when Bedard felt the sprained left medial collateral ligament in his knee getting worse, but who would have known it?

He allowed just five hits and struck out seven in dominating the Philiies, improving to 5-1 at the time with a tidy 2.08 ERA. Over his last six starts before going on the disabled list on May 22, Bedard had allowed just four earned runs in 44 innings.

"He's been out almost two months and the kid is a quality pitcher." said Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli. "He's done a great job for us. When you lose someone who really gave us stability in the rotation, for him to come back, it's like making a trade without giving anyone up."

Showing no rust with his ability to find the strike zone, Bedard caught Twins leadoff man Lew Ford looking at a 3-2 curveball. He then struck out Joe Mauer, also looking, but this time on a fastball. He walked Shannon Stewart and gave up a single to cleanup hitter Matthew LeCroy, but got out of the first on his third strikeout, this one on Torii Hunter. One inning and three strikeouts, and Bedard had already seemingly erased any doubts about his health.

Bedard had been doing arm exercises and throwing to keep his arm in shape throughout his time on the disabled list, but his prime concern entering last night's start was fatigue. In his last rehab start, Bedard admitted that he started to tire around the fifth inning.

When last night's scoreless game reached the fifth, Bedard allowed a leadoff double to Nick Punto. The third baseman was the first Twin to reach scoring position since the first inning.

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