Red Sox 7, Orioles 6

There is time for reflection now as the summer slowly starts to come to an end and the Baltimore Orioles are yet again not playoff contenders in September. A season of twists and turns on and off the field may have been changed for good in early May, when Baltimore's best starting pitcher, an emerging young ace, could no longer pitch with the severe pain in his left knee. Erik Bedard was forced to the bench and the Orioles began a descent that has them in fourth place in the American League East. One tweaked knee may have stopped a great season for a pitcher and his team.

Bedard has clearly not been the same since his left knee injury in late May kept him off the mound for almost two months. He bore the brunt of Baltimore's 7-6 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Saturday, allowing six runs in just 41/3 innings. Only twice since his return from the disabled list has Bedard allowed two runs or less.

"He doesn't throw enough strikes, that's for sure, for whatever reason," Orioles interim manager Sam Perlozzo said. "We talked about that and trying to conserve his pitches. I don't know what it is, whether he doesn't have the feel of his pitches. The offspeed pitch isn't what it was. He doesn't have as much command of it. He's got great stuff. He has to get it back."

Bedard threw 93 pitches on Saturday, but only 50 were strikes. Pitching coach Ray Miller thinks that Bedard altered his delivery in order to compensate for a motion that might have caused the pain in the knee. Bedard said he can't tell whether he changed his delivery and struggles to figure out what has happened.

"The difference is throwing less strikes," Bedard said. "I'm not getting ahead. When you're ahead it's easier to nibble. The knee is fine. The velocity is up there. It's more mental than anything."

Prior to his knee injury Bedard was 5-1 with a 2.08 ERA. Since the injury Bedard is 1-5 with a 5.56 ERA. His injury had certainly been a cause for Baltimore's flop in the second half of the season and some might say it was the biggest reason the Orioles are 151/2 games out of first place.

But there is still hope that each time Bedard takes the mound he will return to his early-season form.

"Honestly, every time I pencil his name in there and he comes up in the rotation I'm counting on a good game," Perlozzo said. "Whether I get it or I don't, I have that high hope."

Perhaps most frustrating was that Baltimore gave Bedard a 3-1 lead on a pair of Boston errors in the fourth inning. But Bedard immediately gave the lead back, first by walking Jason Varitek on four pitches to start the inning.

Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar followed with a two-run homer.

"I tried to throw it away, but it cut in," Bedard said.

The Red Sox took the lead in the fifth against Bedard on Manny Ramirez's single, which scored Johnny Damon. Bedard then loaded the bases by walking Varitek.

With Millar at the plate and Bedard tiring, Perlozzo replaced him with Jorge Julio.

"I couldn't throw strikes early and when I did they were sitting on it," Bedard said.

Julio's third pitch went past catcher Javy Lopez, scoring Edgar Renteria and putting men on second and third. Millar followed with a hard grounder to Miguel Tejada, scoring Ramirez. In the seventh Julio gave up a home run to David Ortiz.

The Orioles rallied in the ninth against Mike Timlin when Renteria's error ruined what should have been a game-ending double play, putting the tying runs on second and third. Pinch hitter David Newhan walked to load the bases. Melvin Mora hit a sacrifice fly to narrow the score to 7-6. But Tejada flied out to right field, giving the Orioles and Bedard another loss.

Several times during the game, a coach or a teammate went up to Bedard and offered advice. The pitcher simply nodded each time and said, "I'm trying. I'm trying."