TORONTO -- It was the Toronto Blue Jays' three-run third inning, two of the runs scoring on a ball that never left the infield, that ultimately cost Orioles pitcher Erik Bedard the decision in his pitching duel with former Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay.
But the way at least one person in the visiting clubhouse saw it, the best starter on the Rogers Centre mound yesterday afternoon was the one that lost.
"I feel [Bedard] out-pitched Halladay and got beat," said Orioles pitching coach Leo Mazzone, clearly annoyed by the events that led to a 4-3 loss, secured when former Orioles closer B.J. Ryan got the last five outs for Toronto in dominating fashion.
Mazzone wasn't the only one frustrated. Television replays caught shortstop Miguel Tejada making an apparent obscene gesture to a fan after striking out for the second time, in the eighth.
In his second straight defeat after winning seven straight decisions, Bedard allowed four runs, the most he has surrendered since June 1, and seven hits over seven innings. Halladay, who is tied for the major league lead with 14 wins, gave up three earned runs and eight hits in 7 1/3 innings.
It was a winnable game for the Orioles (51-64). Manager Sam Perlozzo broke down the difference between the two teams yesterday as a "little break here and a little break there."
Perlozzo was likely alluding to Toronto's three-run third that opened a 4-0 lead, a sizable deficit with a pitcher of Halladay's caliber on the mound.
After giving up a run in the second on Aaron Hill's RBI groundout, Bedard (12-8) got two quick outs in the third before singles by Vernon Wells and Troy Glaus. Alex Rios drove in Wells with a bloop hit to right and took second base when Nick Markakis unleashed an errant throw well to the left of third baseman Melvin Mora.
With two outs and men on second and third, Blue Jays catcher Bengie Molina slapped a grounder down the first-base line. First baseman Fernando Tatis, normally a third baseman, dived and stopped the ball. But it rolled away and he couldn't corral it a second time while laying on the ground, losing any chance to get Molina at first.
Tatis got up and quickly threw home, but catcher Ramon Hernandez was unable to block the plate in time to prevent Rios from scoring from second.
"It was a tough play," Tatis said. "I thought I was going to get an out at the plate, but Rios never stopped running. There was nothing that we could do about it."
After Molina's single, Bedard, who had his start pushed back a couple of days because his arm felt tired, retired 11 straight Blue Jays. But the damage was already done.
"Early on, I was inconsistent, but after the third inning, I was throwing strikes with everything," Bedard said. "I just kept pitching, throwing strikes and things turned my way."
Perlozzo said he was pleased with how Bedard stayed in the game, giving the Orioles chances to come back.
Not sharp early, Bedard ran his pitch count to 48 heading into the third inning. It was at 96 after the sixth, but the 27-year-old left-hander told Perlozzo he wanted to stay in for one more inning. Bedard wound up tying a season-high by throwing 115 pitches, 80 for strikes.
"I thought he did a great job," Perlozzo said. "He got stronger as he went along. They fouled a lot of balls off him today. That got his pitch count up. But for that to happen and he still goes seven, you can't ask for much more than that."
Trailing 4-0, the Orioles got two back in the fourth on Mora's RBI double and Tatis' single. They inched within one run an inning later when Brandon Fahey had an RBI groundout with the bases loaded, scoring Markakis.
Markakis and Fahey, the Orioles' pair of rookies, were 4-for-7 against Halladay with two runs and an RBI.
"He's a guy ... you really can't read," Fahey said. "You don't know what his ball is going to do. He'll do anything at any time. You just got to see it and react."
Fahey led off the eighth with a single against Halladay and then moved to second on Mora's sacrifice bunt. With the tying run at second, Toronto manager John Gibbons brought in Ryan, who struck out Tejada on four pitches and then got pinch hitter Kevin Millar on a sinking liner to left fielder Reed Johnson.
In the ninth, Ryan got Tatis on a groundout and then struck out Jeff Conine and Hernandez for his 26th save in 30 opportunities.
"That's vintage B.J.," Perlozzo said. "He had his good velocity today. He's pretty smart, he stays on the outside of the plate and he's able to keep it there. He didn't make any mistakes."
Later, Bedard pointed to the few that he made, costing him the victory.
"If I do my job, we have a chance to win," said Bedard, a Navan, Ontario, native. "I guess I gave up too many runs. Halladay pitched a great game. You just have to tip your cap to him."