Bedard overcomes control, dehydration

The Baltimore Sun

BOSTON -- For much of last night, Erik Bedard labored in his featured pitching matchup with ace Josh Beckett, battling not only a tough Boston Red Sox lineup, but also dehydration. He couldn't consistently throw his fastball over the plate. His curveball was darting into the dirt before hitting the inside of catcher Ramon Hernandez's mitt. And late in his outing, Bedard, his face flush white, admitted he felt as if he might faint right out on the mound.

But in the most recent indication that Bedard is becoming one of the top pitchers in the American League, he overcame it all, relying more on guts and guile than his vast talent. The left-hander persevered through six innings and the offense and bullpen provided enough backing for the Orioles to post a 5-3 victory over the first-place Red Sox before an announced 36,866 at Fenway Park.

On the day when president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail left the roster untouched through the trade deadline and told interim manager Dave Trembley that he would lead the club at least for the rest of the season, the Orioles (50-55) played with the kind of aggressiveness and resilience that have been constants since Trembley took over.

And no one was more resilient than Bedard, who had thrown 85 pitches by the fourth inning but insisted to Trembley that he wanted to pitch two more innings. His fortitude was well received by Trembley, whose bullpen was again one man short, with Danys Baez back at the team hotel battling an illness.

"He was a little dehydrated at the end of the fourth. He had to get some fluids in him," said Trembley, whose team has won eight of its past 10 games and has posted a 12-5 record since the All-Star break, the best in the American League. "I didn't know if he was going to go back out there for the fifth. ... When he went back out there for the fifth, I told [pitching coach Leo Mazzone], 'That's probably it.' When he came out after the fifth, I said, 'You're done,' and he said, 'No, I want to go another inning.' "

Bedard pitched a scoreless sixth, then watched three relievers finish the job, with Jamie Walker getting the last two outs for his fourth save in as many chances. With men on first and third, Walker got Dustin Pedroia to ground back to the mound for the final out, leaving David Ortiz in the on-deck circle. Ortiz had two home runs and three of Boston's four hits, including the only two hits that Bedard allowed.

Bedard won his fifth straight start and his seventh straight decision, matching his career-best winning streak. He hasn't been beaten since June 10, a span of nine outings. He also improved to 5-0 with a 2.21 ERA in six July starts.

"I told myself to just concentrate on going pitch-by-pitch, and that got me through," said Bedard, who has allowed two runs or fewer in seven of his past eight outings. "Those are the games where you try to minimize the damage when you didn't have your good stuff, so I did." Bedard, who was 1-3 with a 9.87 ERA in previous four starts at Fenway Park, allowed two earned runs on two hits and a career-high-tying five walks. Trying to hold a 4-0 lead that his teammates presented him in the third inning, Bedard surrendered a two-run homer to Ortiz in the third.

Then in the fourth, Bedard, who was forced at times to rely almost exclusively on his curveball and changeup, loaded the bases with one out, while not allowing a hit. He walked Kevin Youkilis, hit Jason Varitek with an errant curveball and then walked Coco Crisp. But he got Wily Mo Pena to swing through a curveball and then caught Julio Lugo looking at a 3-2 fastball.

"If you don't have your best stuff and you only give up two hits and two runs in six innings, that speaks volumes," said Mazzone.

The Orioles scored five runs in eight innings against Beckett, who had allowed a total of six earned runs in his three previous starts. All-Star second baseman Brian Roberts set the tone by lining Beckett's first pitch into the right-field seats for his ninth home run. Roberts added an RBI double and Kevin Millar hit a two-run single in the Orioles' three-run third inning.

"We had scored some runs and you look up and [Beckett's] only got like 35 pitches in the fourth inning or something," said Roberts, who has three homers in his past five games. "So at that point, I said, 'Wow, we've been swinging at a lot of pitches.' But his stuff is so good, you want to make him be in the strike zone. It worked out for us. Some nights, it doesn't work out well at all."

The Orioles spent the minutes before yesterday's 4 p.m. trade deadline, asking reporters if they were about to be traded and coming up with mock trade proposals about teammates. Shortstop Miguel Tejada called out to injured third baseman Melvin Mora and jokingly told him that he had been traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for a batboy.

The good sentiment extended to Trembley, who was told by MacPhail that he would remain the team's manager at least until the end of the season. The hard-earned victory capped an all-around enjoyable day.

"A lot of people are responsible for this," said Trembley. "It's the coaches and the players. We just tried to point the players in the right direction. I told the players today the same thing I told them the first day: It's a privilege to be here with them."

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