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Huff wins it in extras with homer

Huff wins it in extras with homer

BALTIMORE -- Maybe Erik Bedard just needed a little competition. The Orioles' staff ace turned in his best outing of the season on Wednesday night, when he threw seven scoreless innings and kept pace with Tampa Bay's James Shields. Neither team scored until the 10th inning, when Aubrey Huff homered to give the Orioles a 1-0 win.

The result was Baltimore's first win by that score since September 2005, and it marked just the third time in Tampa Bay's franchise history that a scoreless game has gone to extra innings. Perhaps it was fitting that the game-changing shot came from Huff, the Devil Rays' all-time leader in hits, home runs and RBIs.

"It was one of those kind of games that's so frustrating as a hitter," said Huff, who signed with Baltimore (16-18) as a free agent. "You're going through the night, really not getting a pitch to hit. It's one thing to go 0-for-4 and get a pitch to hit. [Shields] was just throwing balls up there you can't really do much with, and you've got to give him credit."

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"It doesn't happen very often. I think you can see that," added Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo. "We had two great pitching performances and our bullpen came in and did a great job. We just never seemed to have a shot at it out there -- we just kept hoping that someone would make a mistake, and we'd get a whack at it."

Neither Shields nor Bedard were around when the winning run scored, but collectively, they were the story of the game. Bedard was rarely challenged Wednesday night, and he allowed just two runners to reach scoring position. The southpaw struck out 10 batters, got six more to ground out and coaxed four flyball outs.

Bedard only allowed more than one Ray to reach base in one inning -- the sixth -- when he walked two batters, and still escaped unscathed. He tired after 97 pitches, though, handing the ball to the bullpen. Bedard hasn't won in four starts, a streak that dates back to April 18, but he left Wednesday's start as the league-leader in strikeouts (56).

"I thought he had his really good stuff this time. His breaking ball was outstanding," Perlozzo said of Bedard. "His changeup, he used a little bit more -- I thought he used it a lot last year, [and it] made him good. His fastball was pretty much what you want. I'd say he was pretty sharp tonight."

"You can't say enough about Bedard tonight," Huff said. "He gave us a chance to score some runs, but equally over there, Shields was dealing. He's a guy that didn't give in tonight. He had a good changeup, and kept the fastball on both sides of the plate. When two guys are pitching like that, it's tough to score runs."

Shields matched Bedard on the scoreboard, and surpassed him in efficiency. The right-hander only allowed three hits in nine innings and only only one Oriole to reach scoring position. Shields got 10 fly balls, eight groundouts, four strikeouts and four popups. He stranded a runner in the ninth, getting two fly balls after a one-out double.

That performance was the latest in a line of strong outings for Shields, who has burst into the picture as one of the league's best arms this season. The second-year starter has pitched into the seventh inning of all of his starts this season, and he has gone into the eighth four straight times for a team that desperately needs a stopper.

"I've seen him come up in Tampa. It looked to me like he's throwing his changeup for a strike more," said Huff, detailing the pitcher's approach. "He's not throwing his fastball right down the middle, [like] I've seen him do when he was younger. He's painting the inside [and] outside, and he's got a plus changeup. Honestly, I think it's in the top 10 percent of the league. When he's throwing that thing for strikes and working both sides of the plate, it's really tough."

"It's frustrating. You've got to give credit to that kid from Tampa Bay," agreed Baltimore shortstop Miguel Tejada. "He threw a pretty good game. I'm happy that Huff came through in the ninth inning for us. ... I feel sorry for the guy who throws nine innings like that and doesn't get the win. I think it's good for a young pitcher like him."

Tampa Bay (14-19) had a chance to score in the 10th inning against John Parrish, but the southpaw got a crucial out with the bases loaded. Parrish got B.J. Upton to ground out and end the road team's best threat.

Shields didn't come back out for the 10th, yielding to Brian Stokes. Nine pitches later, the game was over. Huff blasted a 1-1 pitch into the bullpen, ending the double shutout on a ball that landed in the glove of bullpen catcher Rudy Arias.

"Honestly," Huff said, "I didn't know who I was playing after the ball landed in the outfield and I saw it over the fence."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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