Bedard silences Royals

O's bats quiet, but ace, Ray get shutout as win streak hits 5

Markakis has 2-run HR in 9th

Orioles 3 Royals 0

May 31, 2007|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN REPORTER

KANSAS CITY, MO. -- Erik Bedard sat in the dugout the previous four days, waiting for his turn and undoubtedly wondering if he would be afforded the same luxuries as the other members of the Orioles' rotation.

The Orioles' offense, which has let Bedard down throughout a frustrating month, had awakened since the pitcher's last start. Hits and runs were coming in bunches, and Orioles starters suddenly found themselves taking the mound with rare multi-run leads.

But in a game that was delayed an hour, 36 minutes, Bedard again found himself in the middle of a pitching duel. But it was Kansas City Royals starter Gil Meche who cracked first as Jay Payton broke a scoreless tie in the eighth with an RBI single that propelled Bedard and the Orioles to a 3-0 victory before an announced crowd of 10,513 at rainy Kauffman Stadium.

Bedard allowed no runs and four hits in a season- and career-high-tying eight innings to get his first win since April 18, a span of eight starts. He also gave the Orioles (26-27) a series sweep over the Royals and their first five-game winning streak this season.

"It's always tough when it's 0-0 late in the game, but you just stay in there and battle and make your pitches and good things will happen," Bedard said. "It's [nice]. When you work hard out there for eight innings, you always want to win. I just kept battling and we scored a run late in the game."

Bedard, who improved to 4-3, said that he didn't remember the specifics of his last victory before last night, which came against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

"I remember it was a long time ago," he said.

When told it was all the way back on April 18, Bedard smirked and said, "Wow, that's a long time ago."

Bedard, who entered last night with the fourth lowest run support in the American League, maintained that he wasn't frustrated by his string of hard luck that saw him go without a victory despite going seven innings and giving up three runs or fewer in four straight starts.

But he appeared to be relieved last night, especially after striking out Esteban German, his fifth strikeout of the game, for the final out of the eighth inning. The normally stoic pitcher pumped his fist after throwing his 112th and final pitch.

"He sucked it up for us extremely well," manager Sam Perlozzo said. "He went back out there and stayed in that game for [the] eighth inning when we needed him. I am sure the lack of wins is probably on his mind a little bit, but he certainly has been professional about the way he goes about it. It was a great effort tonight. I am sure he feels good about himself."

Perlozzo admitted he was a little concerned that Bedard may not go back out for the bottom of the eighth because the top of the inning was long. But when Perlozzo peered in the tunnel where Bedard stays between innings, the pitcher was stretching out, indicating that he wanted to stay in the game.

Before the eighth, the Orioles' best scoring chance came in the sixth inning as Meche issued consecutive walks to Brian Roberts and Payton. But Meche struck out the red-hot Miguel Tejada, keeping the game scoreless.

It stayed that way until the eighth, when Meche paid for a lapse in command. He issued a leadoff walk to Ramon Hernandez. Corey Patterson then bunted and beat third baseman German's throw, putting runners on first and second with no outs. Roberts put down a sacrifice bunt, moving both Patterson and Freddie Bynum, who was pinch running for Hernandez, up a base. That's when Payton singled past drawn-in shortstop Tony Pena, scoring Bynum for the 1-0 lead.

"That's what it's all about, trying to win," Payton said. "I was fortunate to get a ball through the infield there and help us win a ballgame. Bedard's been phenomenal. It's nice to get him a win."

Meche then exited and watched Zack Greinke strike out Tejada and Aubrey Huff, keeping Patterson at third and preserving the 1-0 deficit. But Nick Markakis, who didn't start the game, gave the Orioles more breathing room with a two-run shot in the top of the ninth.

Chris Ray then pitched a perfect ninth for his 12th save. Orioles starters, who entered last night with the third best ERA in the AL, pitched a total of 24 innings in the series and gave up only three runs.

"They have a good feeling about themselves a little bit," said Perlozzo, whose team begins a four-game series tonight with the first-place Los Angeles Angels. "They didn't swing it that great, but they got a great-pitched game behind them and they came up with some timely hits."

Entering last night, Bedard was 0-2 with five no decisions in seven starts since April 18, more a testament to bullpen problems and poor run support than poor pitching on his part.

In his past six games, Bedard has registered a quality start each time, allowing eight earned runs in 42 innings, good for a 1.71 ERA. He has gone at least seven innings in his past five starts and allowed a total of six earned runs over that time.

In the seven starts since Bedard's last victory before last night, the Orioles scored a total of 11 runs while the club's No. 1 starter was in the game, an average of just more than 1.5 runs per game.

"It's part of the game," he said. "It happened my first two years, it happened last year. It happens every year. You go through a span where you won't win five or six games in a row and then you'll win four in a row."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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