Bedard salvages rare win vs. Sox

Lefty has fourth 2-hit pitching outing of year for O's

Orioles 4 Red Sox 0

September 14, 2006|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,Sun Reporter

At this point in a ninth straight losing season, the Orioles have to look for small pleasures.

Last night against the Boston Red Sox, they found one.

No team has tormented the Orioles like their visitors from the north, who had won 17 of the past 18 contests between the teams entering yesterday. The Red Sox had beaten the Orioles every which way, pounding them at times and then escaping with one-run wins as they did Tuesday.

But the Orioles never gave them a chance last night. Erik Bedard pitched seven scoreless innings, and the offense pounded 10 hits off knuckleballer Tim Wakefield in a 4-0 win before 22,240 at Camden Yards.

Kevin Millar struck the big blow off Wakefield with a two-run homer. Miguel Tejada added three hits and Ramon Hernandez continued his hot hitting with two.

"It's been a dogfight," Millar said of the Orioles' struggles against his former team, which had won 12 of the 13 games this season before last night. "Early on, they put us away. It's tough to lose that many games in a row to any club, especially a team that's in your division. ... We just haven't found a way to beat these guys, and tonight, Erik Bedard did it almost by himself."

Bedard pushed his career-high win total to 14, striking out five and allowing only four base runners. He held an opponent to two hits for the fourth time this season and lowered his ERA to 3.76, best in the Orioles' rotation by almost a run per game.

"I'm just more mature and more consistent with the strike zone," Bedard said of his season. "Before, if I got behind, I got scared to just go after them. I was nitpicking too much, and now, I just throw and let them hit it."

Opponents certainly view him differently - as an ace.

"The way Bedard was throwing, you knew that every run was going to be huge," said Boston manager Terry Francona. "He's got a fastball with plenty of velocity and it is sinking and turning. The sinking tonight was a good sink. He threw his breaking ball and he threw a lot of strikes. That's a good combination."

Many times this season, Bedard has offered the Orioles (63-82) hopeful moments during otherwise barren stretches. He had the only other win on the current seven-game homestand, beating the New York Yankees on Friday. He also delivered the team's only other win against the Red Sox this season.

The left-hander flirted with trouble in the second inning, allowing singles to Wily Mo Pena and Gabe Kapler. But he struck out catcher Doug Mirabelli and induced a soft liner from rookie Dustin Pedroia to keep the Red Sox from scoring.

"I guess the start of the game, my fastball was a little erratic, but I could throw my secondary pitches for a strike on pretty much any count, so it helps when you can do that," Bedard said.

Manager Sam Perlozzo said Bedard's ability to get out of such jams has been a major part of his maturation this season.

"He's been great at that for a while where he makes the pitches when he has to," Perlozzo said. "And he did it once again tonight, and that's a good pitcher."

The Orioles' defense helped Bedard out of the fourth, turning a difficult 5-4-3 double play to end an inning in which the left-hander had fallen behind several hitters.

Despite the fact he wasn't on his best form, Bedard allowed but one base runner over the third, fourth and fifth innings.

"He threw a lot of breaking balls, a lot of off-speed stuff, worked his heater in and kept them off-balance," Perlozzo said. "He did a great job."

Bedard walked the leadoff hitter in the sixth but ended up with another scoreless inning after left fielder Jeff Fiorentino, making a rare start, slid to catch a David Ortiz fly in the corner. Bedard followed with a one-two-three seventh.

"He's unbelievable," Millar said of Bedard. "He's turned the corner so that he's one of the best pitchers in the big leagues. He's done that for us all season. You really have to tip your cap to Erik Bedard. He set the tone."

Wakefield (7-9) appeared to have mastery of his mercurial knuckleball early last night

Nick Markakis looked like a clumsy kid trying to swat a fly when he swung violently at a Wakefield floater without coming anywhere near it in the first inning.

But the Orioles scored first when Tejada and Hernandez singled to lead off the second and Tejada trotted home on an errant throw by shortstop Alex Gonzalez. Tejada's three hits lifted his average to .330.

The Orioles picked up another cheap run in the inning when Mirabelli tried to catch Millar leaning off third and bounced the pickoff throw off Millar's backside into shallow left-center.

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