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Originally published April 20, 2011 at 3:26 PM | Page modified April 20, 2011 at 10:20 PM

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Erik Bedard falls to 0-4 as Detroit stops Mariners' ninth-inning rally

Mariners score one in the bottom of the ninth, but strand the game-tying run on second in 3-2 loss to Tigers

Seattle Times staff reporter

Thursday

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Mariners manager Eric Wedge talked before Wednesday's game about seeking "small steps" and "small victories" from Erik Bedard in his ongoing comeback from three shoulder operations.

Bedard may indeed have made some positive steps in his subsequent five-inning stint, but for his fourth straight start, Bedard found victory elusive.

He fell to 0-4 for the season as the Tigers turned back a ninth-inning Seattle rally to edge the Mariners, 3-2, before an afternoon crowd of 13,339 at Safeco Field.

The Mariners' loss, coupled with Boston's win at Oakland, gave Seattle the worst winning percentage in the American League (.316) for the first time this season.

The Mariners cut the Detroit lead to one in the ninth when Adam Kennedy hit a leadoff homer against Tigers closer Jose Valverde — their first hit since the fourth inning.

Valverde struck out Jack Cust, but Michael Saunders laced a double into the left-field corner to put the tying run in scoring position with one out.

Pinch-hitter Milton Bradley took a called third strike for the second out. Wedge elected to let Carlos Peguero, making his first major-league start, hit for himself. But heroics were not to be part of the script for Peguero, who struck out for the third time to end the game.

Peguero, who finished 0 for 4, said he wasn't trying for a game-winning homer in that situation, though he took some mighty hacks, as he did throughout the game.

"No, no. I was just thinking to hit the ball hard, make contact," he said. "I wasn't thinking home run."

Peguero, who came up from Class AAA Tacoma on Tuesday to replace Justin Smoak (who's on the bereavement list), had other chances to make an instant impact. But Peguero struck out with two outs and runners on first and second in the fourth, and with one out and a runner on third in the seventh.

In his first major-league at-bat, in the third inning, Peguero sent the ball a long way to the opposite field, but left fielder Brennan Boesch hauled it in just in front of the warning track.

Wedge said before the game he wanted Peguero to enjoy the moment. But the 24-year-old didn't find much fun in the outcome.

"At the beginning of the game, yeah," Peguero said. "But we lost, and no one has fun with that."

Mariners reliever David Pauley turned in a brilliant effort in relief of Bedard, limiting the Tigers to one hit over four scoreless innings. And that lone hit — a one-out single in the ninth by Austin Jackson — was quickly erased when Jackson was thrown out trying to steal.

"I feel comfortable right now, my mechanics feel good," said Pauley, whose earned-run average dropped to 1.50. "When everything is working right, it just kind of flows together. That's the way it's been lately, and hopefully it continues."

Pauley's efficiency was remarkable. He needed only 32 pitches in four innings.

"That's a special feat. He gave us every opportunity to come back," Wedge said. "We came close but fell short. He did a great job. We really had no thoughts of him going that far, but ultimately he did everything he could to give us a chance."

Bedard, in his five innings, gave up five hits and walked five, as well as hitting a batter and throwing a wild pitch. He also gave up his major-league-leading seventh home run of the season (in 18-2/3 innings) to the second batter of the game, Ryan Raburn.

But Bedard also worked out of some jams. In his final inning, the fifth, the Tigers had the bases loaded with two outs when Bedard got Casper Wells to pop out to first.

"I thought he was better," Wedge said of Bedard. "Again, I think it was another step. He had more life on the ball; he did a good job of making pitches, working out of jams, controlling damage.

"There's still more in there in regards to him being a complete pitcher. He knows it, we know it. He just needs to keep grinding, keep doing the work, and the rest is going to take care of itself."

Bedard said of his outing, "Well, I got to five innings. That's a step forward. Hopefully, next time I get to six innings."

Bedard spoke frankly when asked about his frustration.

"I don't know if it will ever be like it used to be, after three surgeries," he said. "You just work hard and do the best you can. Hopefully, good things happen."

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com

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