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June 6, 2014 at 8:53 PM

Rays 4, Mariners 0 — Bedard shuts downs Seattle … for six innings

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Erik Bedard isn’t the same pitcher he was back with the Mariners. He has a beard now.

Ok, so he’s different in other ways too. His fastball doesn’t tough 94 anymore. He’s added a cut fastball. And at age 35, he’s no longer the focal point of attention, which makes him a little less awkward socially.

He’s obviously not the same pitcher the Mariners got when they traded five players for him (sorry about bringing it up). But there are games when he can still be effective. Tonight was one of those games.

Bedard, who went 15-14 with a 3.31 ERA in three injury riddled seasons with the Mariners, tossed six shutout innings, giving up just four hits and striking out eight batters to lead the Tampa Bay Rays to a 4-0 win over Seattle, Friday night at Tropicana Field.

It snapped two streaks in the process. The Rays’ ended a brutal 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 shutout.

“He’s got to pitch now,” said Michael Saunders, one of the few players left on the Mariners’ roster to actually 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 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 okay 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 batters he faced. Those two exceptions came in the third inning when Stefen Romero led off the inning with an infield lead-off 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.

“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.”

The Mariners lost something else in that moment. 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. It’s just a little uncomfortable.

While Bedard was cruising, Mariners’ starter Chris Young struggled. After recording a 1-2-3 first inning, Young never worked another clean inning, facing no less than five batters in each of the next four innings he pitched.

“You aren’t going to be as sharp as you want to every night,” Young said. “My command wasn’t as good I’d like it to be.”

Young worked five innings, giving up the three runs on seven hits with a season-high five walks and three strikeouts.

“He wasn’t very sharp, but not really bad,” McClendon said. “He pitched better than his line, but we didn’t help him very much.”

Even with the Bedard out of the game, the Mariners mustered little against the Rays’ bullpen, registering just one hit in the final three innings.

The Rays tacked on a fourth run in the seventh inning on Tom Wilhelmsen’s wild pitch that allowed Escobar to hustle home.

“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.”

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