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TB@BAL: Bedard fans seven over seven innings of work

BALTIMORE -- From the Rays' dugout, Joe Maddon watched the Orioles take batting practice before Saturday's game, and as ball after ball soared toward the outfield walls, the Tampa Bay manager already had a sense of what the day's game would bring.

"The ball's flying today, man," he said. "It's just flying all over the place."

About an hour and a half later, outfielder Desmond Jennings drilled a leadoff home run to left field to put Tampa Bay on top. The Rays used three home runs to race out to a five-run lead, and despite a pair of homers by the O's, Tampa Bay held on for a 5-4 win in front of 36,387 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

With a pair of fly-ball pitchers on the mound, Camden Yards can become a bandbox, and it played like that on Saturday.

Erik Bedard is all too familiar with those types of days. The starting pitcher called Baltimore home for the first five years of his career.

"It's just like any other mound," the lefty said. "I'm just trying to keep the ball down so the ball doesn't go over the fence, because here, if you're a fly-ball pitcher, it's kind of hard."

On Saturday, he pitched like a veteran of the park. He was felled by a couple home runs -- few who pitch there aren't -- but still pitched into the eighth inning for the first time this season while allowing just five hits and no walks. He needed just 87 pitches to get through the seven-plus innings he pitched and threw 68 of those for strikes.

For the first five innings, Bedard (4-5) carved through the O's offense and faced just one batter over the minimum. Baltimore outfielder Nick Markakis hit a solo homer off him in the sixth and Manny Machado added a two-run shot in the eighth, but Bedard showed his experience. He used a mix of pitches -- including a devastating curveball -- to strike out seven batters and also recorded seven fly-ball outs.

"At times this year, [Bedard's] been challenged with his command a little bit," O's manager Buck Showalter said. "Today he wasn't. He was crisp and was able to command the changeup, the cutter, a couple of strikeouts in."

Orioles starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen was bitten by the home-run bug as well. For the fourth time in his career, the Orioles starting pitcher surrendered three home runs, and he was out of the game after just 3 1/3 innings -- the shortest outing of his career.

Utility man Logan Forsythe followed up Jennings' home run with a two-run blast an inning later. Forsythe was 3-for-3 on the day with two runs scored. Kevin Kiermaier helped chase Chen (7-3) from the game with another two-run homer.

"Velocity wasn't as high as we've seen [Chen] in the past," Maddon said. "He's really good, but I think primarily the velocity on the fastball was down just a click."

All but one of the game's nine runs came on a home run.

Baltimore threatened after Bedard left in the eighth. The O's put a pair on against Grant Balfour, and he was replaced by Jake McGee, who surrendered an RBI single to Adam Jones. McGee stayed in for the ninth and sealed the win for his third save, a four-out effort.

On the final pitch, the fastball-heavy relief pitcher, who could be headed to the All-Star Game, had a pair of strikes on Machado. The Baltimore third baseman had taken Bedard's inside fastball into the bleachers, so McGee wanted to avoid something similar.

McGee knew throwing his curveball could be risky -- if he hung it, Machado could hit the day's sixth home run -- but he threw it anyway. The 77-mph breaking ball, his first of the day, hit the bottom of the zone, as McGee whiffed Machado to end the game.

"I just tried to throw it low and over the plate, and I threw it as hard as I can," McGee said. "It worked out well."

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