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Bedard delivers quality, quantity

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / August 17, 2011

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The six innings Erik Bedard logged last night were the most he’s thrown since coming to the Red Sox at the trade deadline last month. So were the 102 pitches. And even though he still doesn’t have a win (0-1) with the Sox to show for it yet, Bedard has progressed the way manager Terry Francona had hoped through his first three starts.

The Sox dropped the nightcap of their doubleheader with Tampa Bay, 6-2, and Bedard took the loss, his first since coming to Boston. He struck out six and found ways to wiggle out of jams and keep the Sox in striking distance before handing the ball to Matt Albers in the seventh.

“I feel good,’’ Bedard said. “My pitch count is back up to normal, and I’m just trying to keep the team in the ballgame.’’

Bedard hasn’t allowed more than three runs yet and his ERA in 16 innings with the Sox is 3.38.

“Again, he’s spinning that breaking ball real well,’’ Francona said. “I think he’s continuing that progression of getting stronger, getting that pitch count up, and he just fires strikes with all his pitches.’’

Bedard’s longest inning was the second, when Ben Zobrist and B.J. Upton tagged him for singles to start it off. They both came around to score, but the issue wasn’t the runs as much as it was the pitches he used in the inning.

He threw 35. The Rays sprayed foul balls around, running his count higher and higher. Robinson Chirinos alone fouled off six two-strike pitches.

“It was kind of a rough inning in the second inning with a lot of foul balls, but I just kept battling and throwing strikes,’’ Bedard said. “It’ll happen, but you just keep bearing down and keep the ball in the strike zone and try to just battle.’’

His only other blemish was a Desmond Jennings home run in the fifth inning. Otherwise, Bedard kept things under control. He started off the third and fourth innings by giving up leadoff hits but got out of both situations.

He couldn’t have asked for a better deal than in the fourth inning when, after Upton and Casey Kotchman reached with singles, Sean Rodriguez grounded into your garden variety 5-4-3 triple play.

“It was probably the first time I’ve seen it,’’ Bedard said. “I’ve seen it on TV but never at the ballpark when I’m pitching. That’s pretty rare.’’

It saved the Sox from a sticky inning, but it also saved Bedard’s arm and gave Francona confidence to keep him on the mound longer.

“It was a quick inning, I only threw like eight pitches, so it kept my pitch count down and I could go out there and throw another inning,’’ Bedard said.

Jason Varitek, who’s caught each of Bedard’s starts, said the lefthander has enough pitches at his disposal to get himself out of jams.

“He’s got a good repertoire of stuff,’’ Varitek said. “I thought even in some situations, it seemed like we couldn’t get the leadoff guy someway somehow, and he just continued to try to make pitches and not try to do too much.’’

Still, with Rays starter Jeff Niemann dealing (two runs on three hits in a complete game), run support was slim. The Sox offense cobbled together six hits in two games, and two of them were home runs by Jacoby Ellsbury.

“[Bedard] threw the ball well,’’ said Varitek. “He could have just as well have given up the one run. He had that one inning where he gave up the two. But I thought he threw the ball well. We just couldn’t get a whole lot going offensively. He kept the game where it was, kept us in the game, but we weren’t able to score runs.”

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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