The Orioles had found a nifty formula in their four consecutive wins heading into yesterday - build an early lead against the other team's starter and coast home on a solid outing by their own.
They seemed primed to test it again with their best pitcher, Erik Bedard, taking the mound against the Toronto Blue Jays. But the Blue Jays threw a chaotic element into the equation in the form of their own ace and Cy Young contender, Roy Halladay.
Halladay carried a perfect game through 5 1/3 innings and the Blue Jays hit Bedard harder than he has been hit in months to hand the Orioles a 9-2 loss before 23,639 at Camden Yards.
The Orioles could only marvel at Halladay's coldly efficient performance. The 6-foot-6 right-hander (16-3) held them to two runs on four hits over seven innings. He's 3-0 against the Orioles this season.
"It's hard to say how good he is because every time he pitches, he wins it," Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada said with an appreciative grin. "I mean, you know, he's great. Today, he was unbelievable. He's aggressive. He makes the hitters swing at bad pitches because he works fast. What can I say? He's an ace."
Bedard knew he'd have to pitch well to beat Halladay.
"Great, as usual," Bedard said of his opponent, who leads the major leagues in wins. "That's why he won a Cy Young and he's probably going to win it again this year."
The Orioles hardly could have expected Bedard to break their string of superior starts. He came in 7-2 with a 1.94 ERA in his previous 11 outings.
But he fell behind quickly, walking Vernon Wells and giving up a two-run homer to Troy Glaus. He hurt himself in the field in the second inning, picking up a sacrifice bunt attempt by John McDonald but throwing it past first baseman Fernando Tatis to allow Gregg Zaun to score. McDonald scored the Blue Jays' fourth run on a sacrifice fly by Alex Rios.
"It seemed like in the first two innings he was pounding the outside of the plate and there were some balls that were called that were probably just a little off the dish," Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said. "If they're back on the plate a little bit, it might change the game a little bit. But he didn't have his great stuff today, let's face it. We're a little spoiled with him."
Bedard said his stuff was fine.
"I guess I was trying to throw it on the corner, but I was missing a little bit and I fell behind and that's what hurt me," he said.
Toronto extended its lead to 5-0 in the fourth when Lyle Overbay scored on a suicide-squeeze bunt by McDonald. Bengie Molina added a two-run homer in fifth. That was Bedard's last inning.
He surrendered seven runs, five earned, on seven hits to fall to 12-9.
"Obviously, it wasn't his best outing," Perlozzo said. "He had a pretty darned good run. He's gone a tremendous amount of games without giving up those type of runs. It just proves that he's human, and I'm sure he'll come right back and give us a good game the next time out."
Halladay, who is now 14-4 lifetime against the Orioles, didn't trifle with the lead he was handed. He threw hard, low strikes all afternoon.
"His velocity was a lot better than I think he's thrown against us previously," Perlozzo said. "He's got great sink on the ball, mixes his pitches. You don't win that many games by not being good."
Of the 21 outs Halladay recorded, 14 came on ground balls.
"Everything he threw, when you hit it, it felt like hitting a bowling ball," said Orioles left fielder Brandon Fahey. "Everything was going hard down and breaking late. When you see it in the hitting zone, it looks good, then all of a sudden it drops."
Fahey broke up Halladay's perfect game with a single up the middle in the sixth inning. Fahey's hit started a brief rally, as the Orioles loaded the bases and scored their first run on a groundout by Nick Markakis.
The Orioles swung at some bad pitches early in the count, but Perlozzo found that understandable. "When a guy's throwing that good, you can't just continue to sit and take pitches," he said. "It might be the best one you get all night."
Tejada added another run in the seventh with a 420-foot homer that whizzed over the first section of seats in left. The ball, his 22nd home run, was among the hardest any Oriole has hit this season.