Erik Bedard got his first chance to refute the oft-stated claim that the Orioles are better off for having traded him Tuesday night, when he squared off against his former team for the first time. Bedard took a shutout into the seventh inning, allowing four hits and pitching the Mariners to an 8-2 win over Baltimore.
"I've got a lot of respect for Erik. He pitched very well for us," said manager Dave Trembley. "He's an extremely competitive guy. Just knowing him the way I do, I don't think he's any different any time. I think he's the same all the time. He's a real competitive, quiet type of guy, but he's all business when he's got that ball in his hand."
Bedard, who was drafted and developed by the Orioles, was traded to Seattle before the 2008 season in a deal that remade both franchises. Baltimore received closer George Sherrill, center fielder Adam Jones and a three-prospect haul headlined by Chris Tillman, instantly fleshing out the team's organizational depth.
Seattle, meanwhile, never got on track last season and plummeted to the bottom of the league standings. Now, with Bedard healthy, the Mariners find themselves to be much more competitive. Melvin Mora, who described Bedard's pitches as "nasty, nasty and nasty," said it was strange to face off against his former teammate.
"That's not a surprise," said Mora, who doubled off Bedard in the second inning. "He just knows how to pitch and he likes to strike out a lot of people. He's a good pitcher, and he was the key to winning the game today."
And for the Orioles, it was the latest episode in a complete power outage. Baltimore (24-29) has scored just six runs in its last four games, a trend that comes directly on the heels of a five-game winning streak. If you go back even further, the Orioles have scored three runs or fewer in eight of their last 18 games.
Several Baltimore hitters credited their struggles to the competition they've faced in recent days, lauding Bedard and Detroit's Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson as among the best pitchers in the league.
"It's been a tough week," said cleanup hitter Aubrey Huff. "We faced Detroit, who throws some exceptional guys, starters and guys coming out of the pen throwing 100 [mph]. Then you come in here and [Jarrod] Washburn has been throwing well. He's been shutting lefties down. And when Bedard is on his game, he's tough."
Tough didn't even do Bedard (4-2) justice on Tuesday. The southpaw allowed just three hits in the first six innings, holding the Orioles down while his team could hammer out some offense. Bedard stranded runners in scoring position in the second, fourth and fifth before leaving with the bases loaded in the seventh.
Seattle (25-28) managed to allow just one earned run in escaping that jam and scored three late runs to account for the final margin. And in the aftermath, both Huff and Mora raved about Bedard's breaking ball.
"That's the best curveball in baseball right now," said Mora. "There's no doubt about it, especially when you see the guy throwing 93-94 mph inside. With the breaking pitch going outside, there's no chance. If he hangs it, we'll be able to hit it. But he doesn't hang it too much."
"He was sneaky with his fastball," added Huff. "And it seems like when he throws a curveball, it's always a strike. I don't think he threw a curveball that wasn't a strike tonight. When he does that, it makes him that much tougher."
Bedard, for his part, said that facing Baltimore was just like any other team, but the Orioles didn't think he was like any other pitcher. Clearly, they had huge respect for the way he went about his business.
"You're going to have to try to get deep in the pitches with Erik," said Trembley. "But you also don't want to get in a hole, especially with the way he was throwing his breaking ball tonight. ... Before the game, the plan was to keep it close and once you get Bedard out of the game, you're going to have a shot to do something."
On the other side, it was a different story. Baltimore rookie David Hernandez was hit hard in his second career start, giving up 10 hits and five earned runs in fewer than six innings. Hernandez (1-1) left with his team trailing by five runs and wound up taking the first loss of his brief big league career.
"I really wasn't able to throw strike one, and that's kind of the key," he said. "When you're facing those kind of hitters, you've got to be able to get ahead, and I wasn't able to do that. They were just able to wait for my fastball."
Second baseman Jose Lopez drove in three of Seattle's first five runs, using a double in the first inning -- after Ichiro Suzuki hit an infield single to set a Mariners record by hitting in his 26th straight game -- and a ground ball in the fifth to give the home team a lead. The Mariners tacked on three late runs on home runs against veteran reliever Jamie Walker, and Baltimore scored in the seventh and ninth to avoid the shutout.
But in the end, the image that stuck with everyone was Bedard toeing the hill against his former teammates.
"The first at-bat, he was just laughing," said Mora. "He was surprised to see me. It's been a long time. We don't know him. I know him from behind him on the infield, but I don't know him from behind home plate."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less