Nearly unhittable in recent weeks, Erik Bedard looks to dominate a fourth straight start and run his winning streak to six games Wednesday when the Baltimore Orioles continue their series with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
In winning his last three outings, Bedard (9-4, 3.12 ERA) has given up six hits over 23 innings while striking out 33 to increase his major league-leading total to 167. The only run he allowed in that span was a homer that broke up his no-hit bid with two outs in the sixth inning Friday at Oakland in a 6-1 victory.
“I think (Bedard) is the most underrated pitcher in baseball,” Orioles first baseman Kevin Millar said. “This guy’s ceiling is as high as the sky. It’s fun to watch this guy pitch.”
Bedard is 5-0 with a 2.03 ERA in seven starts since losing to Colorado on June 10, and he hasn’t lost to an AL opponent since the Athletics beat him May 25.
“He makes it look easy because he throws that fastball for strike one,” Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said. “Then you see guys try to cheat a little bit to try and get out in front of that fastball and he just drops a breaking ball in there. The guy is dominating and he’s making it look easy and he’s throwing all his pitches for strikes.”
The Orioles (45-53) have won 11 of Bedard’s last 13 starts against Tampa Bay, a stretch during which the left-hander has gone 8-2 with a 2.42 ERA. He held the Devil Rays to three hits and struck out 10 in seven innings the last time he faced them, a 1-0 victory in 10 innings on May 9.
While Bedard goes for a sixth straight win, Tampa Bay’s Andy Sonnanstine (1-5, 5.37) tries to avoid a sixth consecutive loss.
The rookie right-hander is 0-5 with a 5.44 ERA in seven starts since getting his first major league victory on June 10 at Florida. He hasn’t pitched badly of late, lasting at least six innings in six consecutive starts and giving up three earned runs or fewer in four of his last five.
Sonnanstine, who has never faced Baltimore, limited the Los Angeles Angels to three runs in seven innings and did not walk a batter Thursday in a 3-0 defeat.
“(I keep learning) whether it’s in the game or watching something somebody else threw,” Sonnanstine told the team’s official Web site. “I consider myself a sponge soaking up information.”
Young has multihit efforts in 10 of his last 16 games, but he’s failed to drive in a run in six straight games and hasn’t homered in 28 games since June 23.
Tampa Bay (38-61) has had at least 10 hits in seven of the last nine games, but has left 81 runners on base - 57 in the past six games. The Rays left only four men on base Tuesday night, but that’s because they managed just two hits against Daniel Cabrera and two relievers in a 3-0 loss - Tampa Bay’s seventh in a row in Baltimore and 21st in its last 26 games overall.
Perhaps inspired by the pregame honoring of Cal Ripken Jr., who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday, the Orioles won for the seventh time in 10 games. Baltimore has held the opposition to four runs or fewer in eight of those games.
The Rays have lost six of seven meetings with the Orioles this season, and 12 of the past 14.