O's make it six in a row


The Orioles' longest homestand of the season started last night with another display of power by Miguel Tejada and promise by Erik Bedard.

Tejada got things started with a three-run homer in the first inning and Bedard pushed his scoreless innings streak to 15 in beating the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 5-0, before 24,910 at Camden Yards, extending the Orioles' winning streak to six games.

Jay Gibbons and Javy Lopez added bases-empty shots off Devil Rays starter Hideo Nomo as the Orioles (15-7) remained three games up on the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East.

The victory, in the first of 12 straight games at Camden Yards, also pushed the Orioles eight games over the .500 mark for the first time since Aug. 23, 1998.

"When we walk on the field, we feel like we are going to win," said Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts, who had three hits and is batting .385. "At this point, I think everyone can see how confident this team is."

It certainly shows with Bedard, the 26-year-old left-hander, who went a career-high eight innings, allowing only five hits, striking out seven and walking none for the first time in 31 career starts. His ERA dropped to 2.84.

"The key for me was he got the first hitter of every inning out until the sixth," said Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli. "That is big. ... He is becoming the pitcher we felt that he could be last year."

Bedard (2-1), who shut out the Blue Jays through seven innings last Saturday, had little trouble with the last-place Devil Rays (8-15), retiring the first eight hitters and allowing only three Devil Rays into scoring position.

In his past two outings, which span 15 innings, Bedard has given up no runs and 12 hits and struck out 13, while allowing only one walk.

"I threw [fastballs] wherever I wanted and I threw strikes," Bedard said. "I got quick outs early and I got on a roll."

Jorge Julio came on to finish things in the ninth, getting former Oriole Chris Singleton to hit into a game-ending double play.

Devil Rays starter Hideo Nomo (2-3) absorbed the loss. He gave up five runs in 6 1/3 innings and eight hits, with three of them home runs.

All five Orioles runs came on home runs, as it was apparent early that the Orioles' bats, which battered Boston and Toronto for 43 runs on the team's 5-0 road trip, had not cooled in the two-day layoff.

Before Nomo, who struck out 11 and no-hit the Orioles on April 4, 2001, as a Boston Red Sox, even managed to get an out, the home team had a 3-0 lead.

Roberts singled and Melvin Mora, who is tied for the American League lead in sacrifice bunts, reached on a bunt single. The Orioles then engineered a double steal, with Roberts sliding in headfirst to third to beat catcher Toby Hall's throw and Mora strolling to second.

With a 3-1 count, Tejada hammered Nomo's low forkball 413 feet over the left-center field wall for his seventh home run. He pumped his fist and pointed to the crowd after passing home plate.

"I was trying to hit the ball to the right side and I just got lucky to hit a home run," said Tejada, who has an American League-leading 28 RBIs and is one shy of Mike Bordick's club record for RBIs in April.

Designated hitter Gibbons gave the Orioles a 4-0 lead with a fourth-inning shot - his third of the season -that landed on the flag court in right field.

Lopez made it 5-0 in the sixth inning, connecting on Nomo's belt-high fastball for his fourth home run, extending the catcher's hitting streak to 10 games.

"I didn't throw a lot of accurate pitches tonight," Nomo said.

Bedard, meanwhile, was consistently getting ahead of hitters and using his fastball to put them away and his changeup to keep them off balance.

The Devil Rays didn't get a hit until second baseman Nick Green stroked a single with two outs in the third. Bedard ended each of the first three innings on strikeouts. He retired the Devil Rays in order in the fourth and did the same the next inning, working through five innings in 63 pitches.

"He knows that's the key to pitching a good game, getting ahead on every hitter," Lopez said. "Every thing he threw was pretty strong and pretty hard."

Julio Lugo followed a leadoff hit by Hall with a two-out, infield single in the sixth, putting a Devil Ray in scoring position for the first time all night. But Bedard worked out of a 3-0 hole to strike out Huff looking.

With Bedard's pitch count at 111, Mazzilli kept him on the bench for ninth inning. For the Devil Rays, it was too late.

"Bedard was outstanding," said Tampa Bay bench coach John McLaren, who served as manager last night with Lou Piniella serving the first of his three-game suspension for his team's actions during the Devils Rays' fight-marred game against the Boston Red Sox last Sunday.

"That was one of the better pitching performances we've seen all year. He worked both sides of the plate and we couldn't get anything going off him. We came in here with a positive attitude, but Bedard was just on top of his game."

Orioles today

Opponent: Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Site, time: Camden Yards, 4:35 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Devil Rays' Mark Hendrickson (0-1, 4.15) vs. Orioles' Sidney Ponson (3-1, 6.85)

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