New York's Roger Clemens came to Baltimore with a chance to become the first pitcher in four decades to earn his 350th victory, but instead broke a streak of 200 starts with at least one strikeout. Erik Bedard, Baltimore's ace, outpitched Clemens for seven innings and led the Orioles to a 4-0 win. Clemens matched him for five innings but stumbled in the sixth.
"What a matchup between two outstanding pitchers. What a matchup," said interim manager Dave Trembley, who is 5-3 since taking over for Sam Perlozzo. "Bedard seemed to get better as the game went on. I thought he changed his game plan the third time around. The first couple times around, he used his fastball. The third time around, he went to using all his pitches."
Bedard (6-4) may have been the less heralded starter, but his performance took a back seat to nobody. The southpaw allowed just two hits and didn't let a single Yankee reach scoring position. He struck out eight batters and walked one en route to his second straight win. Bedard has worked five innings or more and allowed three earned runs or less in 10 straight starts.
The southpaw left without commenting to reporters Wednesday night, but his pitching coach spoke for him.
"What I saw out of him tonight? An All-star pitcher," said Leo Mazzone, Baltimore's pitching coach. "I think he's been this way all year, basically. The greatest compliment that I could give Erik Bedard is with some of the great staffs in Atlanta that I had the privilege of coaching, he could have pitched in them. I think that's the greatest compliment I can give him."
"He was throwing strikes," added catcher Ramon Hernandez. "He was getting ahead of the hitters, and after that he was making them chase. He was making pitches when he needed to -- like tonight, he got a couple guys on 3-2 breaking balls. He punched out a few guys looking at fastballs. He really was hitting his spots. When he does that, he's going to have a pretty good night."
Despite the acclaim, the night was supposed to belong to Clemens. The right-hander, who stands second on the all-time strikeout list (4,626), is one victory from becoming the first pitcher to reach 350 wins since Hall-of-Famer Warren Spahn did it in 1963. Clemens lived up to the billing by spinning five shutout innings on Wednesday, but the Orioles caught up in the sixth.
Baltimore (34-43) got all of its offense in one fell swoop, and four straight batters reached base in the sixth. Shortstop Chris Gomez started the rally with a leadoff single and came around to score on a base hit by Hernandez. Shortly after the Orioles made it a 1-0 game, Aubrey Huff provided the final margin by blasting a three-run home run over the left-field fence.
That homer was the first in 143 at-bats for Huff, which was the longest drought of his career. And for one night, it signaled the end of Clemens' pursuit of history. Perhaps more surprisingly, it meant a two-game winning streak for the Orioles.
"When I played with him last year, he's one of the classiest guys," said Huff, who played with Clemens on last year's edition of the Houston Astros. "You see him at the yard and the way he works, the way his work ethic is, it's beyond anybody I've ever seen. Just to be able to face him -- no matter how many times you do it -- is always special."
"Clemens is a master of locating his pitches," Trembley said. "He looks like he pitches two or three pitches ahead all the time. He's setting up his pitches when he throws. He threw that one up and in to Huff and he was setting up the two pitches down and low. You have to appreciate who he is and what he's done and how he continues to do it."
Meanwhile, on the other side, Bedard retired 10 of the first 11 batters he faced and finished off by retiring the final seven batters. He started four of his seven innings with strikeouts and also finished two rallies with punchouts. New York (36-39) never pushed two runners on base in any inning against Bedard, who has just three wins in his last 13 outings.
"I think he's had a lot of them like that tonight to be perfectly honest with you. He's been consistent and pitched at a very high level," Mazzone said. "He has the [fastball] that he cuts, the four-seamer that explodes and then he's got the two seamer that he can sink ... He mixed in one changeup early and then went to his curve ball more as the game went on."
"Somebody asked me the other day if I thought he was a No.1 or a No. 2 on this staff," Trembley said. "A No. 1 is a guy [that] when you put him out there, you expect to win. He gives your team a chance to win. You throw aside all the no-decisions and all that and look at the quality starts he's had. He's given us games, seemingly, every time he pitches.
"I don't think there's any doubt the guy's a bona fide No.1 on this club. He's pitched like that all year."
Clemens (1-3) was unable to strike out a batter for just the 11th time in his storied career, but he still drew high praise in the opposing clubhouse. He may not throw for the same velocity as he did in his youth, but he knows how to use his stuff to best effect.
"He's still pitching well. He knows how to pitch," Hernandez said. "This game is not about how hard you throw. ... He might not throw as hard as he used to in the past, but he throws strikes and he hits in and out and he gets you off balance."
"I never look to walk against anybody. If I see a pitch in the zone, I'm swinging at it, especially off him," Huff said. "He's a hard-headed pitcher. He's going after you. He knows he's good and he's going to bring it to you."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.