"It was a battle from the first pitch of the game," Bedard said. Later, he insisted, "I was erratic."
If allowing one run in six innings is erratic, it's difficult to imagine just how good the Baltimore Orioles left-hander can be when he's at his best.
With Bedard leading the way, Baltimore handed the Devil Rays their fifth successive defeat, 6-1 on Wednesday.
Bedard (10-4) struck out eight -- including Ty Wigginton three times -- to increase his AL-leading total to 175. He gave up six hits, walked two and lowered his ERA to 3.05, fifth-best in the league.
Bedard has won four straight starts, allowing only two earned runs in 29 innings, and is 6-0 in seven outings since June 15.
Asked to explain his run of success, he replied, "I'm just throwing strikes and getting ahead a lot. Today I was erratic, but my curveball was there, so I depended more on that than my fastball."
In improving to 9-3 lifetime against Tampa Bay, Bedard was forced to leave after six innings because his pitch count was at 109.
He was backed by solid defensive play. Third baseman Aubrey Huff made a diving stop of a grounder by Brendan Harris to get an out in the third inning, and rookie shortstop Luis Hernandez reached deep in the hole for a grounder to start a 6-4-3 double play in the fifth.
"Without those," Bedard said, "I'd probably have been done in the (fifth) inning."
Corey Patterson went 3-for-4 with a double and a home run for the Orioles (46-53), who moved within seven games of .500 for the first time since June 13. Baltimore is 8-4 since the All-Star break and 17-13 under interim manager Dave Trembley.
Tampa Bay rookie Andy Sonnanstine (1-6) yielded five runs and seven hits in six innings. The right-hander has lost six straight decisions since earning his first major league win on June 10.
Raul Casanova homered for the Devil Rays, who have lost eight straight in Baltimore and 22 of 27 overall.
"We're starting to lose all the time. We don't want to get another long losing streak going," said Carl Crawford, who was involved in a first-inning blunder that set the tone for the remainder of the game.
A communication breakdown by the Devil Rays enabled Baltimore to take control in the first. A single and two walks loaded the bases with two outs for Ramon Hernandez, who hit a towering fly to short left. Left fielder Crawford came in, shortstop Harris went out, and both backed off before the ball dropped between them for a two-run single.
"That was a normal fly ball. They got confused, I guess," Ramon Hernandez said. "It was a big play."
Said Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon: "That's popup coverage 101. We have to make that play 100 out of 100 times. It wasn't a difficult play."
Jay Payton then singled in a run, providing Bedard with all the backing he needed to earn another win.
"He's pitching great now," Ramon Hernandez said. "He can throw his breaking ball anytime he wants to for strikes. When you can do that, you're always going to have a quality start."
Which is precisely what happened against the Devil Rays, despite Bedard's postgame assertion.
"The thing I noticed most tonight was his command of his breaking pitch when he gets behind in the count. That's really unusual, the confidence he has in his curve ball," Maddon said. "He threw it when he was behind in the count and we saw it on 3-2 counts."
Casanova hit his sixth homer in the third, ending a run of 23 straight scoreless innings by Baltimore pitchers.
After Luis Hernandez made a spectacular diving snare of a grounder by B.J. Upton to start the double play that ended the Tampa Bay fifth, Nick Markakis hit a sacrifice fly in the bottom half for a 4-1 lead.
Luis Hernandez singled in a run in the sixth and Patterson hit his fifth home run leading off the sixth.
- Tampa Bay hitting coach Steve Henderson was ejected from the game by home plate umpire Tom Hallion for arguing a third-strike call on Upton.
- The Orioles placed closer Chris Ray (sore elbow) on the 15-day DL and recalled RHP Cory Doyne from Triple-A Norfolk. Doyne pitched a perfect eighth.
- Bedard has allowed more than three earned runs in only one of his last 16 starts.
- Tampa Bay is 2-12 on the road in July.