No boost from Bedard


TORONTO -- They had just the man they wanted on the mound to help break a relatively short but frustrating losing streak, rest a beat-up bullpen and reverse momentum for a starting rotation that has unexpectedly sputtered.

But Erik Bedard did nothing to change the Orioles' fortunes last night. Nor did a slightly altered batting order or a rare early lead. Their former closer, B.J. Ryan, pitched a perfect ninth and Vernon Wells hit two home runs for the Toronto Blue Jays, who dealt Bedard his first loss and the Orioles their season-high fourth straight defeat, 8-2, before 19,336 at Rogers Centre.

"Hey, it happens," said Bedard, who gave up 10 hits and five earned runs in 5 2/3 innings. "I can't go the whole year without losing a game. Now, I am 4-1 and we'll go to the next start."

Falling back to the .500 mark, the Orioles (11-11) managed only runs in the first inning on Jay Gibbons' RBI single and in the fifth on Jeff Conine's third home run, limited by another left-hander, the Blue Jays' Ted Lilly (2-1).

Of the Orioles' four straight losses, the past three have come against left-handed starters, and the team is 1-5 overall in games in which the opposition has started a lefty.

Entering last night, the Orioles' batting average against left-handers was .176, as opposed to .293 against right-handers.

Toronto (11-8) will send Casey Janssen to the mound tonight as it looks for a three-game series sweep. Janssen will be making his major league debut, but perhaps the most important thing for the Orioles is that he's right-handed.

"We have a couple of guys that haven't been swinging the bats," said Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo, who moved Melvin Mora to the No. 2 spot in the order, hoping to jump-start an offense that hasn't scored more than three runs in a game since Friday, averaging under two runs a game during this skid.

"It just seems like they haven't done it against left-handers," the manager added. "But they're battling. I thought they battled Lilly pretty well tonight. But, obviously, we have to put more points on the board."

The Blue Jays, on the other hand, love facing left-handers. Before meeting Bedard, they had an American League-leading .387 average and a .615 slugging percentage against lefties.

Pitching about 300 miles from where he grew up in Navan, Ontario, Bedard scuffled through five innings but performed enough damage control to be on his way to getting through six innings, a rare feat for an Orioles starter, with the club trailing 3-2.

But Bedard allowed a two-out, sixth-inning single to Reed Johnson and then a towering two-run homer to Alex Rios. The shot, off Bedard's 92-mph fastball, traveled an estimated 421 feet into the left-field stands. That was the last hitter he faced.

"I just left a lot of pitches out in the middle of the plate," said Bedard, who failed in his bid to become the first Orioles starter to win his first five starts of the season since Ben McDonald won his first seven in 1994. "They have a really good lineup. You don't have much of a break."

Even with inconsistent stuff, Bedard earned praise from the other dugout.

"He pitched good," said Toronto manager John Gibbons. "He's tough, man. He's definitely one of the better pitchers and he's coming into his own. He has a good arm and his location is better than it used to be - more consistency. He's going to be a big winner."

Sendy Rleal relieved Bedard and gave up a bases-empty homer to Wells on his second pitch, increasing Toronto's lead to 6-2. Wells added another homer, a mammoth two-run shot, off Eddy Rodriguez in the eighth after Kevin Millar had failed to get the final out by tagging Rios, who was caught up between first and second.

The Blue Jays scored their first run of the night on an Orioles defensive miscue as Miguel Tejada's throwing error opened the door for Toronto's three-run second.

"We didn't make a play here and there that cost us a couple of runs," Perlozzo said. "Right now, you're not getting away with a mistake. That usually happens when you are matching up with a team that is hot. They have four or five hitters in there that are scalding. It makes it tougher."

Signs of frustration popped up all over the Orioles' latest loss. Kevin Millar booted his bat in the air and then slammed his helmet to the ground after striking out in the fourth. Mora spiked his helmet to the ground after Rios made a running catch on him in the seventh.

Ryan retired the Orioles in order in the ninth, getting his former catcher, Javy Lopez, on a deep flyout to left field and then Millar and Conine on groundouts.

"You know your offense isn't going to produce all season long, but, yeah, we need to pick up a lot of our game," Perlozzo said. "In order to get out of a little bit of a funk you have to pitch a little better, you have to hit a little bit better, you have to play a little better defense."

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