Bedard 2nd best in match of young lefties

Twins' Liriano, 22, yields Orioles just 1 hit in 7 `nasty' innings as Minnesota wins series

Twins 4 Orioles 0

June 12, 2006|By DAN CONNOLLY | DAN CONNOLLY,SUN REPORTER

MINNEAPOLIS -- There have been plenty of times in the past two seasons when opposing hitters have spoken with awe about the Orioles tandem of young pitchers: Erik Bedard and Daniel Cabrera.

Some of baseball's biggest names have predicted that Cabrera, Bedard or both could emerge as aces if they only were more consistent.

Yesterday, Bedard threw a solid but terribly inefficient game, making 115 pitches while picking up the loss in the 4-0 rubber match against the Minnesota Twins.

In the Twins' clubhouse, no one talked about the Orioles' left-hander.

Instead, it was the Orioles (29-35) who were forced to sing the praises of an up-and-coming pitcher: Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano.

"Nasty," said Orioles third baseman Melvin Mora about Liriano. "Everything nasty."

A 22-year-old with command of a 93-mph fastball, a slider, cutter and changeup, Liriano (5-1) limited the Orioles to one hit and two walks in seven innings.

"He's one of those pitchers that you have to guess when he is going to throw strikes. That makes it tough because everything is [thrown] hard," said Orioles designated hitter Javy Lopez, whose fifth-inning liner to right was the only hit against Liriano.

"You try to be patient, he throws strikes. You try to be aggressive, you won't see any strikes," Lopez said. "You don't know how you are going to approach him, whether to be patient or aggressive."

The Orioles knew little about Liriano, who made just his ninth big league start. But they knew it wasn't going to be easy.

"What I hear is he throws a nasty slider, a nasty changeup, a nasty fastball, a nasty everything. We just went over there to just try and hit the ball," Mora said. "Even that ball he threw for a walk to Brian Roberts was nasty."

Indeed, Liriano walked Roberts, the first batter he faced in the game. But that plate appearance was a harbinger of the long afternoon that was looming for the Orioles.

During the at-bat, Roberts fouled a ball off his left foot and jumped around for several moments near home plate. He stayed in the game, but later hobbled into the clubhouse with an ice pack wrapped around his foot. If it still hurts today in Toronto, Roberts said, he would get it X-rayed.

Liriano retired 13 of the next 14 batters before Lopez's single. No Oriole reached base again until after he left the game with a 4-0 lead after the seventh.

For three innings, Bedard (5-6) matched zeros with Liriano, allowing just one hit. In the fourth, though, the Twins took the lead and lost a manager.

With one out and a runner on first, Twins right fielder Michael Cuddyer appeared to have checked a two-strike swing. But home plate umpire Ed Rapuano said Cuddyer went around and wouldn't ask for a second opinion from the first base umpire.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire stormed out of the dugout to argue the call and was eventually tossed from the game - his league-high fifth ejection of the season. Twice, Gardenhire went to the plate and mimicked a swing, to the delight of 25,438 fans in attendance for Brad Radke Bobblehead Day.

"I just wanted him to appeal," Gardenhire said. "He said he made the call ... I think he didn't like my swing at all."

On the very next pitch, Justin Morneau homered to right-center, his 14th home run of the year and third of the series.

After the game, Bedard said Gardenhire's theatrics didn't break his concentration.

"It was more funny than anything else," he said.

Bedard allowed two more base runners in the fourth but he struck out former Oriole Tony Batista - one of Bedard's season-high nine strikeouts - to end the inning.

He then loaded the bases on two walks and an infield single in the fifth before striking out the side to get out of the jam.

That was it for the Orioles left-hander, who was removed after throwing a season-high 115 pitches.

"The first three innings he was pitching and not throwing and he was real effective with his pitches," Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said. "In his last innings it looked like he threw five innings of baseball in two innings."

It was the 10th time in 14 starts that he threw more than 100 pitches. Seven of those times he hasn't pitched more than six innings. Seven times he went to a full count on a batter. He's averaging an incredibly high 18.1 pitches per inning this year.

"In the total picture, he's got to get past that and take us deeper," Perlozzo said. "I say that every night, but it's just a fact."

It hardly mattered, though, since the Orioles managed just three hits and six base runners against Liriano and two relievers.

Instead, they were left to mutter to themselves about the phenom who nearly no-hit them.

"I think this kid is already good," said Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada, who played with Liriano on the Dominican Republic's World Baseball Classic team this March. "And when he learns the league more, I think he'll be one of the toughest pitchers in the league."

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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