Bedard rescues O's again


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The recipe for Erik Bedard's recent success is fairly simple. Pitch him after an Orioles loss. And make sure he doesn't eat raw fish the night before a start.

When those two elements are working in concert, the results have come out swimmingly for the Orioles left-hander.

Staring at a potential fifth straight loss and a sweep by last-place Tampa Bay, the Orioles sent Bedard, their stopper, to the mound at Tropicana Field yesterday. And he did what he has done in each of his past seven outings: pick up a victory and halt an Orioles skid.

Bedard didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning and gave up just two runs through seven as the Orioles beat the Devil Rays, 4-2.

"He pitched great again, no question about it," Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said. "I don't know where we would be without him. I don't know how many losing streaks he has broken for us. He has been outstanding."

Bedard (12-6, 3.94 ERA) hasn't lost since June 11 and hasn't allowed more than three runs in a game since June 1. During his winning streak his ERA is 1.29 and he has halted skids of four games (twice), two games (twice), one game (twice) and three games.

Yesterday's outing was among his most impressive, simply because he hadn't pitched since July 15. He was scheduled to face the Devil Rays in Friday's opener, but he contracted food poisoning from bad sushi he had eaten here Thursday night.

"The early going I felt a little weak," Bedard said. "But as the game went on I felt stronger and stronger."

Joked Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon: "I just wish that food poisoning lasted one more day."

Instead, it was the offenses that looked washed out against Bedard and Devil Rays left-hander Scott Kazmir, who struck out the side in the first.

"That was one of those situations where he struck the first three hitters out and we said, 'We've got ourselves a ballgame. Our guys better be up to the occasion,' " Perlozzo said.

Kazmir lasted seven innings, allowing seven hits and two runs while walking one and striking out 10. His costly mistakes were Javy Lopez's homer in the third and Ramon Hernandez's RBI double in the fourth.

He left with the game tied 2-2, but the Rays would have been ahead if it weren't for a fantastic play from an unlikely source.

Heading into the sixth, the Devil Rays had just one hit, an RBI double by Tomas Perez with two outs in the fifth. In the next inning, Ty Wigginton singled with one out and scored on a triple by Jorge Cantu.

Bedard got Jonny Gomes to ground out for the second out and then Travis Lee lined a pitch down the first base line that Kevin Millar snagged on a dive.

"That was the turning point for me," said Bedard, who struck out nine while allowing three hits and three walks. "If he doesn't make that play, they go ahead and we might lose the game. That was a great play."

Millar, who is known more for his offense than glove, said it "was definitely up there" among the highlight defensive plays of his career.

"I'm a Gold Glove guy," he cracked. "I've probably been on [ESPN's] Web Gems four times in my life."

The Orioles (45-55) waited for Kazmir to leave before they took the lead again. With one out in the eighth, Brian Roberts doubled off reliever Jon Switzer (1-1). Melvin Mora singled against Edwin Jackson to score Roberts. Mora later scored on Jeff Conine's single.

Chris Ray, pitching in his first game since July 17, threw two scoreless innings for his 24th save.

It was exactly what Perlozzo was looking for, especially after his bullpen pitched a combined 12 2/3 innings in an exhausting 13-12 defeat Saturday and a 14-7 blowout loss Friday.

"If Erik would have struggled early I would have worried. I would have worried about how the team would have responded," Perlozzo said. "Thank goodness he came out and pitched well and we were able to get out on top. I thought that was key to the morale of the club."

Perlozzo said he has full confidence in his left-hander, and in the fact that he won't be having pre-game sushi meals anymore. Bedard, however, said he wouldn't give up the Japanese delicacy altogether.

"I'm still going to eat sushi," Bedard said. "I just had bad luck."

That's OK with one of his teammates - to a point.

"I'll get him some sushi," Millar said. "But we'll cook it. We're going to cook it."

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