- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2007

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Just as they planned, the Baltimore Orioles got Scott Kazmir’s pitch count up early, and that played a key role in another comeback victory.

Erik Bedard won his third straight start, Kevin Millar hit a tiebreaking double and the Orioles beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 6-4 yesterday.

Millar’s fifth-inning double off reliever Gary Glover (0-1) gave Baltimore a 4-3 lead. Millar then scored to make it 5-3 when Jon Knott, who singled, was tagged out in a rundown between first and second.

Kazmir, the Devil Rays’ No. 1 starter, departed after throwing 102 pitches through four innings.

“I thought we did a great job of laying off a lot of pitches, and he didn’t have his good stuff,” Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo said. “We got his pitch count up there. It was something we looked at. I had an eye on it from the third, fourth inning, hopefully that we could keep getting him up there with pitches and get him out of the ballgame.”

The Orioles won twice — both times coming from behind — in the three-game series. Baltimore is 8-4 since being swept in a season-opening three-game series at Minnesota.

Bedard (3-1) gave up four runs and seven hits in 52/3 innings. He struck out eight and walked three during a 110-pitch outing.

Chad Bradford got out of the sixth before John Parrish and Danys Baez each pitched a hitless inning. Chris Ray struck out all three batters in the ninth for his fifth save in six opportunities.

Baltimore’s revamped bullpen allowed one run and six hits over 13 innings in the series.

“It’s unbelievable,” Ray said. “My job is a lot easier when you’ve got all those guys in front of me, going in there and setting the tempo and keeping the momentum on our side.”

Kazmir allowed three runs, six hits and four walks. The left-hander, who missed most of the second half last season with a shoulder injury, made his fourth start this year.

“I’m fine,” Kazmir said. “I just couldn’t get into a groove. I couldn’t find the strike zone.”

Kazmir struck out three and had a three-ball count on eight of the 20 batters he faced.

“He just didn’t have a good day,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said.

Rocco Baldelli put the Devil Rays ahead with a leadoff homer in the first. It was his sixth leadoff shot, tying Carl Crawford’s team record.

The Orioles tied it on Freddie Bynum’s second-inning RBI double. Tampa Bay went back ahead 2-1 in the bottom half on Josh Paul’s run-scoring bloop single.

After Crawford’s RBI double in the third made it 3-1, Baltimore pulled even at 3-3 in the fourth when Chris Gomez hit a run-scoring single and Alberto Castillo drove in a run with a double.

Bedard left after B.J. Upton’s one-out RBI grounder cut Tampa Bay’s deficit to 5-4 in the sixth. The Orioles got the run back the next inning on Nick Markakis’ homer.

Tampa Bay’s defense produced two key outs early on. Upton’s relay throw from second to the plate helped retire Gomez, who tried to score on Bynum’s double in the second. Kazmir picked off Castillo at second with two on and two outs one inning later.

Notes — Orioles right-handed pitcher Jaret Wright (right shoulder soreness) threw 41 pitches during his first bullpen session since getting hurt. “Making progress,” Wright said. …

Tampa Bay third baseman Akinori Iwamura was out of the lineup because of flulike symptoms. Others, including catcher Dioner Navarro and coaches Steve Henderson and Bill Evers, also have the virus that has worked its way around the Devil Rays’ clubhouse the past couple of weeks. …

Baltimore catcher Ramon Hernandez (strained left oblique) worked out with the team for the second straight day but could need a short minor league rehabilitation assignment before being activated from the disabled list.

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