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Orioles take opener from Sox

Orioles take opener from Sox

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BOSTON -- Erik Bedard's breakout season earned another bullet point Tuesday night, when he gutted out a win in adverse conditions against the best team in the league. Baltimore's staff ace didn't have his best stuff and felt so dehydrated that he felt woozy on the mound at one point, but he still found a way to tame the Boston bats and earn a 5-3 win.

Bedard, who has won seven straight decisions and five straight starts, battled poor command of his fastball and humidity that forced him to get fluids in between innings. The left-hander tied a career high with five walks -- one more than he walked in all of June -- but came up with big pitches in tight spots. In short, it was a virtuoso performance for a team that needed it.

"That's why he's the No.1 guy on your staff," said manager Dave Trembley, who was told earlier in the day that he'll finish the season with the O's. "He's one of the best pitchers in the league. When you don't have your best stuff and you're coming here in this yard -- in front of this crowd and in front of this team -- and you compete the way he competed tonight, it ought to tell you something about what kind of stuff this guy's got. Not only makeup-wise, but ability-wise."

The southpaw's last four victories had all come against opponents with losing records (Texas, Chicago, Oakland and Tampa Bay), and Bedard had been dominant in nearly all of them. The Red Sox and Fenway Park represented a tougher challenge, especially when you consider that Bedard went into the game with a 1-3 record and a 9.87 ERA in Boston.

When you throw his struggles with the weather and his repertoire into the mix, it's something else entirely. Bedard walked four batters in the third and fourth innings alone, prompting Trembley to worry about whether he'd make it any deeper in the game. He struck out two batters with the bases loaded in the fourth, though, and successfully lobbied to stay on the mound.

"I just threw strikes and tried to keep it out of the middle of the plate," said a visibly drained Bedard after the game. "They were anxious to hit the ball and get those runs in. But I made good pitches and they swung at them."

"He was getting so dehydrated," added Trembley. "I didn't know if he was going to go back out for the fifth, but he said he could do it. After the fifth, I was going to take him out and he said, 'No, hang with me.'

"The thing you've got to like about Bedard is he competes and he doesn't give in, even when he doesn't have his best stuff. His poise is so good that he doesn't tip his hand -- so you really can't tell when he's walking that tightrope."

Bedard has rarely wobbled in the last month, pitching to a 5-0 record and a 2.21 ERA. His success goes back even further, as he's allowed two earned runs or fewer in nine of his last 10 starts. The Orioles (50-55) have followed suit with a 21-21 record since the start of that streak and a league-best 12-5 mark since the All-Star break.

Baltimore earned an early lead in the first inning Tuesday, courtesy of a leadoff home run by Brian Roberts on the first pitch of the game. Roberts doubled in another run in Baltimore's three-run third inning and the road team never trailed.

"I'm healthy and I think that's a big factor," Roberts said of his increased power, which has led to nine home runs. "The second half of last year, I started to get healthy and I started to hit more homers. And then this year, it's been kind of a steady progression, I guess. I think the biggest thing is playing a full year healthy. I always thought I could get 10 to 20."

Boston (64-42) battled right back in the bottom half of the third, but Bedard bore down to limit the damage. He got a double play after walking the leadoff hitter but fell behind and walked Dustin Pedroia with two outs. A few moments later, Boston slugger David Ortiz made it a two-run game with a line-drive shot over the right-field fence.

Bedard ran into trouble again in the fourth by loading the bases on two walks and a hit batsman. He came back to strike out Wily Mo Pena, though, and got leadoff man Julio Lugo looking at a low fastball to end the inning. The fifth and sixth were much easier, and the former sixth-round pick retired six of the last seven batters he faced before calling it a night.

"Breakthrough, I don't know. I just did all right tonight," Bedard said after the game. "I told myself to just concentrate on going pitch-by-pitch, and that got me through."

"If you don't have your best stuff and you only give up two hits and two runs in six innings," said pitching coach Leo Mazzone, who has repeatedly said that Bedard might be the best pitcher in baseball right now, "that speaks volumes."

Ortiz homered again in the eighth inning to provide the final margin, but Boston still fell to its second straight loss. Trembley had to successfully navigate through a difficult endgame without injured closer Chris Ray and ill setup man Danys Baez. He leaned on veteran reliever Chad Bradford for four outs and used Jamie Walker for the last two.

Walker has four saves in four chances since Ray went down with a sprained right elbow, and the Orioles have won three straight series and eight of their last 10 games. Trembley, for one, is gratified to see the recent results.

"A lot of people are responsible for this," he said. "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."

"He deserves it," Roberts said of Trembley learning that he'll finish the year as manager. "I think he's handled everything very well. We've played well under him and when you look at those factors, there's no reason for him to not be here."

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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