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PHI@PIT: Hurdle, Bedard talk about the tough 1-0 loss

PITTSBURGH -- Shortly before Opening Day festivities were to give way to Opening Day baseball at PNC Park, Erik Bedard was spotted toting a bat around the bowels of the ballpark, between the indoor batting cage and clubhouse.

He must have had a feeling the tool could come in handy against a miserly pitching opponent.

"All you can do is try matching up zeroes with Roy Halladay," Bedard would say later.

The career American Leaguer made as good use of his bat in his first National League start as did the rest of his Pirates teammates. Bedard's matching zeroes ended after six innings, Halladay's string never ended and the Phillies had a 1-0 win to spoil Opening Day for the largest crowd in PNC Park history.

Between them, Bedard and Halladay delivered 173 pitches. Yet, the most telling throw across the plate came from right field, out of Jose Tabata's hand -- and mere inches from keeping the game scoreless.

Bedard showed 39,585 why the Pirates signed a 33-year-old free-agent left-hander who had 16 wins the last four years, as he held the five-time National League East champs to six hits and the run in seven innings.

"Individually, yes, a lot of satisfaction," Bedard said. "But that doesn't help the team."

All along, the tangible reward for Bedard's excellence was in doubt because, while he may have been pitching with surgical precision, he was up against a Doc.

Halladay allowed hits to the first two men he faced, then nothing to the next 25. Halladay retired 23 of the last 25 men he faced -- the only exceptions being two hit batters -- before Jonathan Papelbon earned the save with a perfect ninth in his Philadelphia debut.

"It's pretty hard not to give Roy Halladay credit," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "He changed speeds to left-handed hitters, stayed out of the middle of the plate, and we weren't able to counter-punch."

This had been a mini-classic of a pitchers' duel. Both teams got only one runner as far as third. Pittsburgh's died there. Philadelphia's scored, because Tabata could come only within inches of making a throw that would've evoked fitting comparisons to his childhood idol.

Not that Roberto Clemente never missed his mark.

The decisive play came in the seventh, with Ty Wigginton on third base. Wigginton had singled with one out in front of a double by John Mayberry Jr., and tagged up as Tabata closed on Ruiz's liner.

Tabata caught the ball in ideal throwing position, appeared to slightly bobble the glove-to-barehand exchange, then unfurled a laser that found catcher Rod Barajas' mitt on the fly -- but just high enough to allow Wigginton to slide in with the run before Barajas could apply a swipe tag.

"A good throw, just a little high," said Tabata, who confirmed that the first time he went to dig the ball out of the glove, he hit its webbing and had to reach in a second time. "That's why it looked like I bobbled it, because my hand hit the glove."

"[Bedard] had good stuff today. I got lucky with the first ball I hit over first," said Ruiz, who went 3-for-3 in addition to his decisive sacrifice fly. "Then the ball I hit to the middle and also the ball I hit to right field, I'm fighting at home plate. He was making good pitches. He did a great job. They didn't score a run, but they had a chance to win."

Halladay was embroiled in the biggest early-game jam. But after Alex Presley and Tabata (with a perfect push bunt) led off the game with singles, he got Andrew McCutchen to bounce into a double play, then Neil Walker's fly to left stranded Sanchez on third.

"I was looking to drive the ball, and I did hit it good. Not where I wanted to hit it [just to the right of shortstop]," McCutchen said. "But after you hit the ball, you have no control.

"Halladay had a strong start. He was hitting the corners. It's what you expect of him, and we had to step up."

Bedard dealt with his own early two-on situation in the second, after Mayberry and Ruiz delivered consecutive one-out singles. Freddy Galvis' double-play grounder ended that threat.

Calling Bedard's outing "absolutely" confirmation of what the team had seen as his upside, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said, "He pitched very good, very efficiently. Nothing was squared-up [by the Phillies hitters]."

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