BALTIMORE -- The Pirates' pitching staff had been a rock all season, the biggest reason the team has been an early contender in the National League Central.
Three games against the Orioles and 27 runs later, the Bucs sit three games behind the Reds in the division standings, squandering what had been a first-place tie only three days earlier.
Erik Bedard was the primary culprit on Thursday, allowing seven runs on eight hits in 3 1/3 innings as the Orioles completed the sweep with a 12-6 win at Camden Yards.
Pittsburgh came into Baltimore having won 12 of 15 games, but left with its first three-game losing streak since April 12-14.
"We're aware of where we are, but you've got 100 games to play," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "I think it's kind of nice that teams are talking about, 'You were tied with Cincinnati for first three days ago.' The sky is not going to be falling down now that we got swept here in Baltimore."
The O's pounded out 16 hits and eight doubles en route to the most runs any team has scored against the Pirates this season, matching the Cardinals' 12-run effort on May 2.
Pitching in the park he called home for five seasons, Bedard yielded the most runs he's allowed in a game since May 23, 2008, when he gave up nine against the Yankees. It was Bedard's shortest non-injury start of the season.
"They were hitting good pitches, they were hitting bad pitches," Bedard said. "They pretty much were hitting everything. It was just one of those games."
The Pirates' three starters in the series -- Brad Lincoln, Kevin Correia and Bedard -- combined to allow 15 earned runs on 27 hits in just 13 2/3 innings. The trio gave up three home runs and notched only five strikeouts.
Although neither James McDonald or A.J. Burnett appeared in the series, the 9.88 starter's ERA against Baltimore is a shocking contrast to the overall 3.72 ERA the Bucs' rotation had entering the series.
"We've got to pitch better," Hurdle said. "This is the first time that we've had three starters not give us what we need off the mound. But it's going to happen. So what you do is you go in there and take a good shower, you evaluate what didn't happen that you wanted to happen, and then you move on."
"We're not going to dwell on it," Bedard said. "They're hot. They scored a lot of runs, and that's what they're supposed to do."
The Orioles' offense started early and never let up. In the first, Matt Wieters, Mark Reynolds and Steve Pearce delivered consecutive two-out hits with runners in scoring position to give Baltimore a 4-0 lead.
Baltimore added another in the third, when Wieters hit a high 0-2 fastball to the alley in left-center for a ground-rule double.
Hits in 0-2 counts were a theme for Bedard. Seven times he got ahead 0-2 in the count, and five times batters reached anyway.
"I couldn't put them away," Bedard said.
"That probably became as problematic as anything," Hurdle said. "He wasn't ahead of a lot of hitters early, but then when he did get to two strikes: foul balls, extended counts, not being able to have a putaway pitch."
While the lefty's control was good enough to get ahead in numerous counts, it was also spotty at times. Bedard allowed two walks, threw four balls in the dirt and hit Adam Jones with an 0-2 changeup.
Bedard returned to the mound in the fourth and surrendered a bloop single to J.J. Hardy before Chris Davis hit an 0-2 pitch to right for a single that ended Bedard's night.
Bedard entered with a 1-0 record and a 3.57 ERA in five starts against the team that drafted him in 1999. He left with a 1-1 record and 5.54 ERA.
"He ended up getting the ball on a bigger portion of the plate more often than he wanted," Hurdle said.
Doug Slaten came on in relief and gave up a grounder to Wieters that snuck under Pedro Alvarez's glove at third for a two-run single.
After Reynolds doubled to put two men on, Pearce, a former Pirate, belted a three-run homer to give him a career-high five RBIs.
The home run was Pearce's first as an Oriole, and also marked the first runs Slaten has allowed since joining the Pirates.
"It is nice playing against the Pirates," said Pearce, who spent the first six years of his career with the Bucs. "I earned playing time over there with the Pirates organization, I just wasn't able to stay healthy. It's nice having a new opportunity somewhere else and if I can stay healthy, it's going to be a fun year."
The O's lead ballooned to 10-0 by the time the first Pirate reached base, as Garrett Jones' single to lead off the fifth broke up Tommy Hunter's perfect game.
While Bedard needed 36 pitches to escape the first inning, Hunter made just 35 through four.
Rod Barajas cracked a three-run homer in the fifth and the Pirates added two more in the sixth -- including Alvarez's first RBI in 10 games -- but the Orioles' offense kept coming.
After tossing a scoreless fifth, Chris Resop found trouble in the sixth, allowing consecutive doubles to Adam Jones and Wieters to make it 11-5.
The RBI was Wieters' fifth on his 4-for-5 night. Reynolds finished off his own 4-for-5 game with a solo shot off Bucs reliever Jared Hughes in the eighth.
The Pirates had allowed seven runs or more only four times in 59 games before doing it on three consecutive days in this series.
It's no wonder they're happy to leave Baltimore.
"We're going to move on and looking forward to getting out of here, I can tell you that," Hurdle said. "We got wiped out here. We have no reason to look at anything else but we got outplayed for three days."
"If you get swept," Bedard said, "you're always glad to get out of there."
Greg Luca is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.