SEATTLE -- Erik Bedard said he couldn't remember if the hit that broke the Mariners' backs Saturday evening broke Brandon Inge's bat. The Seattle left-hander, who fell victim to the Detroit Tigers in a 2-0 loss before 31,966 in Safeco Field, also said he couldn't remember what type of pitch Inge dumped into shallow right field in the sixth inning, snapping a scoreless tie and leading to both Tigers runs when Ichiro Suzuki air-mailed his throw home for an error. Then Bedard, often a man of few words, summed up the night succinctly, ultimately declaring that both mysteries will remain unsolved because, "It doesn't matter now."
His point was well taken on a night when Bedard continued to reestablish himself as one of the premier starters in the American League but had nothing to show for it. The Mariners lost the game despite Bedard's second straight quality start, a six-inning effort in which he gave up seven hits -- six of them singles -- and struck out eight. Of his 100 pitches, 68 were strikes. The first six batters he struck out all did so while looking at called third strikes. Bedard lowered his ERA to 1.86 and now ranks second in the American League in strikeouts with 23. He's allowed three earned runs or less in each of his three starts and has fanned at least seven batters every time he's taken the mound in 2009. "Bedard was very, very good," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "Electric stuff." Bedard had been so nasty in his previous outing, when he pitched 8 1/3 scoreless innings in a 1-0 victory at Oakland, that he needed the bare minimum of run support for the win. On Saturday, he didn't get any offensive backing, but the Mariners still seem to like their chances on most nights if their lefty ace continues to pitch like this. "I thought Bedard had great stuff again," said manager Don Wakamatsu. "Again, he was on top of his game," added catcher Rob Johnson. "He threw more pitches [per inning] than he did last outing, but this is a team with a veteran lineup and they were fouling off some pretty good pitches. He threw the ball well. "Back there, I was surprised. They actually fouled off some really good pitches that I was like, 'Man, how did they foul that ball off?' But Erik did a great job with his sinker and a great job with his cutter and then we used his curveball when we needed to. They just got the big hit and we didn't." That had a lot to do with Detroit starter Edwin Jackson, the hard-throwing right-hander who might be finally living up to his potential. The closest the Mariners came to scoring was in the fifth inning, when Jose Lopez struck out but reached first base on a passed ball and moved to third on a perfectly executed hit-and-run single by Johnson. However, the inning and threat came to an abrupt close when Yuniesky Betancourt flied out to Detroit center fielder Curtis Granderson, who nailed Lopez at the plate with the throw. Otherwise, Jackson was simply stifling, routinely hitting the mid- to upper-90s, striking out six in 7 2/3 innings, walking one, and doing it all with a mere 98 pitches. "He's got great stuff," Johnson said. "He mixes his fastball at 91 and then 96 and he's got a filthy slider, so he keeps you off balance. He's a very good pitcher." Wakamatsu, who has seen Jackson go from a can't-miss Dodgers prospect to a Tampa Bay spot-starter and long reliever to an intriguing offseason Tigers trade pickup, agreed. "Edwin Jackson was awfully good tonight," Wakamatsu said. "He had a good fastball and he was better than I've seen him in a very long time. He pitched this time." And the Mariners didn't hit, making it tough for Bedard, even on another good night. The lefty battled his way through five scoreless frames before he hit trouble in the sixth. Miguel Cabrera led off with a single before Bedard recorded two outs, but Gerald Laird singled Cabrera to second, setting up the key play of the game. Inge sent the flare to right field, scoring Cabrera, and Ichiro was off-target, allowing Laird to coast home with the insurance run. "Both guys threw well, and they got the jam-shot base hit and two RBIs," Johnson said, shaking his head. "You tip your hat."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.