The Orioles completed a three-game sweep of the Pirates with a resounding 12-6 victory, pounding Pirates pitching for 10 runs in the first four innings. The trio of Matt Wieters, Mark Reynolds, and Steve Pearce combined to collect 10 hits and drive in all 12 O's runs, and the Birds pulled a half-game back of the idle Yankees in the AL East.
Tonight marked the return of former Orioles ace Erik Bedard, pitching at Camden Yards for just the second time since the O's traded him in 2008. Bedard, of course, was well known for being terse and uncooperative with the media, giving disinterested one-sentence answers when he bothered answering questions at all. I always found it hilarious, but I could see how it would irritate beat writers who need to flesh out their stories with quotes.
Well, we have a surprise tonight-- joining me to help out with the recap is Erik Bedard himself! Welcome, Erik! Thanks so much for taking the time to do this.
ERIK: (exasperated sigh) "Yeah."
Tell me, what was it like to pitch against your former team?
ERIK: "I've played for a lot of teams."
Well, that's true, but this is the team that drafted you, brought you to the bigs, and developed you into an ace. Any special memories here?
Or maybe you had extra motivation to beat them because they traded you?
ERIK: (checks watch)
All right, let's get to the highlights.
ERIK: "I don't really know what you're talking about."
You know, Brian Roberts. He had a concussion and missed a full year for the Orioles.
ERIK: "I don't follow the Orioles. I play for Pittsburgh."
Let's just move on. Roberts' single sparked a huge first-inning rally for the Birds. With one out, Chris Davis capped an impressive nine-pitch at-bat by working a walk after being down 0-2. Bedard retired Adam Jones on a flyout, but the O's wouldn't let him get out of the jam that easily, coming up big with three straight two-out RBI hits. Matt Wieters lashed an RBI single to to give the Birds a lead, and Mark Reynolds golfed a low 0-2 pitch into right field for a two-run double.
Up next was the ex-Pirate, Steve Pearce, and he began a huge night against his former team by smoking a double to deep right field, plating Reynolds to make it a 4-0 game. He certainly got all of that one, didn't he, Erik?
ERIK: "Yeah, it was just a bad pitch."
Specifically, what kind of pitch was it?
ERIK: "A bad one."
Moving along. Bedard finally got out of the first inning, but not until he'd thrown a whopping 36 pitches and faced eight batters. It was clearly not his night.
On the other end of the spectrum was Orioles starter Tommy Hunter, who took full advantage of the Pirates' weak lineup in the first four innings. Of the first 12 batters he faced, Hunter retired...wait for it...ALL of them. He worked at such a quick pace that he threw only 35 pitches in four innings (fewer than Bedard threw in the first inning alone). It's worth mentioning that Hunter made a mechanical adjustment and moved to the left side of the rubber instead of the right. What does that kind of shift do for a pitcher, Erik?
ERIK: "Well, this way, you're further to the left."
Dynamite contribution, as always. Let's get back to the O's offense, which continued to pound Bedard. In the third, Wieters roped an RBI ground-rule double to make it a 5-0 game, though the O's wasted a bases-loaded, no-out rally later in the inning. No problem-- they picked up where they left off in the fourth. J.J. Hardy and Davis both singled with one out, and that brought an end to Bedard's night. Erik was putrid in his return to Baltimore, lasting just 3 ⅓ innings and getting torched for seven runs and eight hits. Erik, your thoughts?
ERIK: "I just didn't have it tonight. Wasn't throwing good pitches."
Now, what in particular wasn't working for you? Was it command, was it stuff, was it...
...um, I looked away for a second and Bedard left. OK, thanks for stopping by, Erik!*
(*Disclaimer so I don't get sued: Obviously, none of those were real quotes were Bedard. They were made up for the purposes of this story. But you can kind of imagine him saying them, can't you?)
The O's continued their assault against Pirates reliever Doug Slaten, with another two-out rally. With two men in scoring position, Wieters poked a slow grounder to the left side that squeaked between the third baseman and shortstop, giving him two more RBIs.
Reynolds then doubled, and Steve Pearce came through with another huge hit, crushing a three-run blast into the left-field seats for his first homerun as an Oriole. What a shot! Steve Pearce, in an admittedly small sample size, has looked pretty decent so far. The Orioles now had a 10-0 lead. In the fourth inning!
Hunter carried his modest perfect game into the fifth, but any thoughts of a Matt-Cain-esque historic night were thwarted when Garrett Jones blooped a single to left with one out. There went the no-hitter, and pretty soon the shutout and a quality start were gone, too. Hunter coughed up a three-run homer to Rod Barajas later in the fifth to get the Pirates on the board.
Hunter really wore down as the night went on. The Pirates tagged him for two more runs in the sixth on three hits, chopping the Birds' once-ten-run lead in half to 10-5. Though Hunter had thrown just 77 pitches, Buck Showalter didn't want to risk him squandering the entire lead, and pulled him after the sixth. Hunter had four phenomenal innings followed by two terrible ones that took him out of the running for the Most Birdland Player poll. Sorry, Tommy.
The prolific Orioles offense added a couple more runs. Wieters smacked an RBI double in the sixth that gave him five RBIs on the night, tying his career high. I'd say Matt has busted out of that recent slump. Wieters and Pearce (who also drove in five) were the first O's teammates with five RBIs since Cal Ripken and Will Clark on June 13, 1999.
For good measure, Reynolds smacked a solo homer in the eighth off reliever Jared Hughes, the angriest looking person I've ever seen with his crazy eyes and heavy breathing between pitches. Settle down, man! You're in the big leagues. Your life's not that bad. Reynolds had four hits tonight, and the Birds' 5-6-7 hitters-- Wieters, Reynolds, and Pearce-- combined to go 10-for-14 with two homers, five doubles, and 12 RBIs. Amazing. The Birds' 12 runs were a season high.
The game dragged on as Dana Eveland slogged through ugly eighth and ninth innings, but finally he got the six outs he needed (giving up a run in the ninth) to finish it off. And with the impressive sweep, the Orioles are now 11 games over .500.