ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Mariners got a reminder of the pitcher they hoped Erik Bedard could be when they traded for him before the 2008 season. But that glimpse came in 2014 with Bedard throwing against them.
Bedard, who went 15-14 with a 3.31 earned-run average in three injury-riddled seasons with the Mariners, tossed six shutout innings, giving up just four hits and striking out eight to lead the Tampa Bay Rays to a 4-0 win over Seattle on Friday night at Tropicana Field.
It snapped two streaks in the process. The Rays’ ended a 10-game losing streak, while the Mariners had their five-game winning streak broken. It was the seventh time this season the Mariners have been shut out.
While Mariners fans may remember Bedard as a petulant and disinterested pitcher who seemed content getting to 100 pitches and exiting games early, he doesn’t lack talent. Even at age 35 after multiple surgeries and his fastball topping out at 89 to 90 mph, he possesses decent enough off-speed pitches and a deceptive delivery to get outs.
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“He’s got to pitch now,” said Michael Saunders, one of the few players left on the Mariners’ roster to play with Bedard. “He’s lost some miles per hour. But he’s added a cutter. He was finding success up in the zone, and we couldn’t lay off it.”
Working at a hypnotically slow pace, Bedard had all those things working against a Seattle team (31-29) that won’t be mistaken for an offensive juggernaut on most nights.
“Our at-bats weren’t great tonight,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He threw OK tonight. Listen, he had (eight) strikeouts tonight. That says a lot. So he must have been doing something right.”
Bedard retired 12 of the first 14 he faced. Those two exceptions came in the third inning when Stefen Romero led off the inning with an infield single. Cole Gillespie followed with a double to center to put runners on second and third with no outs. But Bedard came back to strike out Brad Miller, James Jones and Michael Saunders in a row — all swinging.
“You got to bear down and make some pitches,” Bedard said. “Just try to limit the damage.”
It was a massive opportunity lost.
“That changes the game,” Miller said. “You get in those guys, or at least one of them, and you strike first. Any time a team gets out of that (situation), the momentum goes back to them. We’ve got to do a better job of executing there, and it started with me.”
Rays manager Joe Maddon was a little more definitive.
“If they had put several runs up right there, it’d have been very difficult with the mood and the thought of having to come from behind,” Maddon said. “That one particular moment, I think, won tonight’s game.”
Saunders injured himself swinging during that inning and had to be taken out of the game.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” Saunders said. “I felt something on a swing. It was uncomfortable.”
McClendon said that Saunders is “day-to-day” and will be re-evaluated on Saturday. Saunders tried to be optimistic despite obvious frustration.
“I don’t think it’s anything serious,” he said. “I’m pretty confident in that.”
While Bedard was cruising, Mariners starter Chris Young struggled. He pitched five innings, giving up three runs on seven hits with a season-high five walks and three strikeouts.
“You aren’t going to be as sharp as you want to every night,” Young said. “My command wasn’t as good as I’d like it to be.”
“We had some opportunities early, and we didn’t take advantage of them,” McClendon said. “It was one of those days where we didn’t play well on either side of the baseball, and those things happen. We’ll have to put it behind us and get ready for tomorrow.”