By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Want to see most any Mariners fan — and, yes, many within the organization — scrunch their face into a lemon-biting grimace?
Just mention the name “Erik Bedard.”
Check the mirror. What you see is likely exactly what we’re talking about. Bedard is, to the Mariners, like that once-promising relationship that somehow went all wrong.
Know how seeing that person again seldom brightens your day? Yep, the Mariners are right there with you after flailing ineffectively Friday for six innings against Bedard in a 4-0 loss to Tampa Bay at Tropicana Field.
“He just kind of paints and nibbles,” shortstop Brad Miller said. “We weren’t able to get something going. He got a lot of us to chase up, and he mixed a little fastball and a little cutter in there. He threw well.”
So ends the Mariners’ five-game winning streak.
Bedard (3-4) yielded four hits while walking one and striking out eight … or just the sort of performance the Mariners envisioned in February 2008 when they obtained him from the Baltimore Orioles for four players.
But Bedard was injured for much of his 31⁄2 seasons in Seattle (although he pitched reasonably well when he wasn’t). And one of those players sent to Baltimore turned out to be perennial All-Star outfielder Adam Jones.
Anyway … the Mariners sent Bedard to Boston just prior to the 2011 trade deadline, got little in return and have done little ever since whenever they’ve face Bedard: one earned run in 181⁄3 innings in four appearances.
“Our at-bats weren’t great tonight,” manager Lloyd McClendon. “Listen, he had (eight) strikeouts … He must have been doing something right.”
The Rays had lost 10 in a row before Bedard bedeviled his former club. Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and Grant Balfour completed the shutout in the opener to a four-game wraparound series.
Mariners starter Chris Young (5-3) fought his command in issuing five walks and throwing 102 pitches in just five innings. He limited the damage to three runs.
“You’re not going to be as sharp as you’d like every night,” Young said. “Ultimately, you tip your cap to Erik Bedard. He shut us down. One run was enough.”
The Mariners had one glorious chance against Bedard. They put runners at second and third with no outs in the third inning with the game still scoreless. Score a couple of runs there, against a club on a 10-game skid, and who knows?
Instead, Bedard struck out three consecutive hitters: Miller, James Jones and Michael Saunders.
“You’ve just got to bear down and make some pitches,” Bedard said. “Just try to limit the damage. If one run had scored, it could have been a good inning. I just tried to throw strikes and get some outs.”
It was the turning point.
“If you at least get one of them in,” Miller said, “you strike first, and then Chris can go out there and keep doing his thing. Anytime you get out of that, the momentum goes to the other guys.”
Saunders felt discomfort in his right shoulder on a swing in his at-bat and soon thereafter left the game.
“I don’t think it’s anything serious,” he said. “I’m pretty confident in that. I was just a little bit uncomfortable. We’ll just come in (Saturday) and take a look at it.”
The Rays wasted bases-loaded chances in the second and third innings before breaking through in the fourth after Kevin Kiermaier turned a one-out grounder up the middle into a double.
A wild pitch and Jose Molina’s sacrifice fly delivered the run.
The Rays extended their lead with a two-run fifth. Evan Longoria led off with a grounder up the middle and went to third on James Loney’s high chopper over first baseman Justin Smoak.
Desmond Jennings’ bunt turned into an RBI single when Young had trouble getting the ball out of his glove.
“I maybe could have rushed it and made the play,” Young said. “I thought, at that point, I’d better eat it. It’s a tough angle to throw the ball down the line with the runner running.”
Yunel Escobar’s soft one-out single to left made it 3-0.
The Rays got their final run by scoring in the seventh against Tom Wilhelmsen after Robinson Cano turned a potential double-play grounder into a single by dropping the ball. (So ruled the official scorer.)
Ultimately, though, it was the Mariners’ inability to solve their old friend, particularly when they had him on the ropes in the third inning.
“Bedard ended up pitching his way out of it,” Saunders said. “Kudos to him. But we’ve been playing really good ball lately. This is just one we’re going to have to put behind us.”