Beckett can't contain O's in loss

Beckett can't contain O's in loss

BOSTON -- The Red Sox would have to wait another day before they saw Eric Gagne at Fenway. They didn't need him on a warm night in Boston, where Erik Bedard and the Orioles' relief corps ensured that the Sox would never enjoy a lead.

Baltimore beat Josh Beckett and the Red Sox, 5-3, in the opener of a three-game series. Bedard threw six strong innings, guiding his team through occasional turbulence of his own making.

"Bedard just, when he needed to, made great pitches," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "And we weren't able to capitalize on the few chances we had."

Bedard walked five batters, but ended three innings with strikeouts. The only two hits he allowed were a single and a homer by David Ortiz, the first of two homers by the Red Sox designated hitter.

Putting all his weight behind a breaking ball that didn't reach its intended destination on the outside corner, Ortiz hit a screaming two-run blast to right. It was his first home run against a left-hander this season.

"I saw a pitch to hit," Ortiz said. "And I hit it."

Bedard, the victimized Orioles ace and not just any left-hander -- having registered a 3.05 ERA and 11.15 strikeouts per nine innings, better than fellow southpaw and two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana -- recovered his aim. He didn't allow another hit, and, after escaping a fourth-inning bases-loaded jam by ringing up Wily Mo Pena and Julio Lugo, retired five straight batters and left after a scoreless sixth.

Beckett went eight innings, allowing five runs and suffering his second straight loss for the first time this season. The Red Sox ace was efficient with the strike zone, throwing 76 of his 110 pitches for strikes. Maybe too efficient, he discovered, as the aggressive Baltimore bats swung away and connected on first-pitch strikes.

"He left a couple down the middle, which he was trying to do just to get ahead," center fielder Coco Crisp said. "And they were able to jump on him."

Beckett didn't have to wait long to feel the consequences. Orioles leadoff man Brian Roberts hammered the game's first pitch off the top of the right-field wall, a rocket that bounced high off the padding into the bleachers for a bizarre home run.

"I still think," Beckett said, "to this day, it's one of the hardest things you can do in this game, is to hit the first pitch you see out."

Still, Baltimore gathered many of its hits, like Kevin Millar's third-inning two-run single, by pounding hard ground balls through holes in the infield. Catcher Jason Varitek said repeatedly that he thought Beckett's "pitching performance was a lot better than his line."

"But balls found holes at the right times," Varitek said.

Beckett expressed his frustration verbally after a game in which he also took some shots at a dugout water cooler.

"It's one of those deals where you just have to suck it up, take your ... whupping, and go home," Beckett said.

Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.