Bedard coasts against old team; Ichiro breaks own record as hit streak hits 26

SEATTLE -- Erik Bedard actually smiled once or twice on the field Tuesday night. Yup, this was no ordinary start for the intensely private left-hander.

Bedard pitched like an ace against his former team and Ichiro Suzuki extended his hitting streak to a team-record 26 consecutive games, leading the Seattle Mariners to an 8-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

"Yeah, it was different. I'm sure I'm going to get texts after this one," said Bedard, who was even mouthing along to the words of a pop song playing over the clubhouse speakers after the game.

Bedard (4-2) allowed one run and four hits in 6 1/3 innings to lower his ERA to 2.37, fourth-best in the AL. He struck out seven while throwing a season-high 112 pitches.

"He has the best curve in baseball right now, no doubt about it," said Orioles third baseman Melvin Mora, who exchanged laughs with his ex-teammate during the game.

Bedard faced his friends for the first time since he was traded to Seattle for outfielder Adam Jones, reliever George Sherrill and three other players in February 2008. While Bedard has been slowed by injuries, Jones and Sherrill have blossomed in Baltimore.

But Bedard got a standing ovation Tuesday for allowing two runs or fewer for the seventh time in 10 starts. His strong run has come at the right time: He could become a free agent at the end of the season.

"I feel fine and I'm throwing strikes. That's pretty much all I can do," he said, eight-plus months removed from shoulder surgery.

Ken Griffey Jr. and new No. 2 hitter Russell Branyan homered for Seattle. Griffey also had two doubles for his first game with three extra-base hits since June 5, 2006, for Cincinnati at St. Louis. Jose Lopez tied a team record with three doubles.

David Hernandez (1-1) allowed five runs and 10 hits over 5 1/3 innings in his second major league start for Baltimore. He called pitching in front of his parents and family members who were up from Sacramento, Calif., "the happiest part of my night."

Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu moved Branyan up to second in the lineup -- "probably the biggest No. 2 hitter in the world," Suzuki said. It paid off -- at least for one night. The AL's lowest-scoring lineup busted out for 16 hits against four Baltimore pitchers.

Suzuki extended his hitting streak with an infield single in the first. Some in the crowd of 17,978 gave the eight-time All-Star a standing ovation as his record was announced. Suzuki remained expressionless during the cheers, then said he wished he had invited his wife Yumiko and beloved dog, a Shiba Inu named Ikkyu, to the game.

"Then again, if I didn't invite them, that probably shows you how much the record meant to me," he said through an interpreter.

He then whipped out a green fan with Ikkyu's likeness on both sides.

This is his seventh hitting streak of at least 20 games since he arrived in Seattle for the 2001 season. That ties him with George Sisler for the fourth most 20-plus game hitting streaks. Willie Keeler, Ty Cobb and Pete Rose had eight.

Asked what he thought of still being less than halfway to Joe DiMaggio's major league record hitting streak of 56 consecutive games set in 1941, Suzuki said: "It's true when they say it's the hardest record to break."

Branyan hit a two-run shot off Jamie Walker in the eighth for his team-leading 12th homer. Two batters later, Griffey hit career homer No. 617. Teammate Ronny Cedeno jumped on the 39-year-old's back before Griffey deftly avoided a dugout kiss from burly Carlos Silva.

But Bedard enjoyed the win most of all.

Old pal Aubrey Huff had him smiling behind the mound in the second, after the designated hitter passed closely by following a flyout.

With two on and no outs in the fourth and Seattle leading 2-0, Huff flew out to deep left-center field. This time, Huff huffed. He stomped into a hallway behind the dugout to bang on anything he saw in frustration. Bedard then got Mora to pop out and Ty Wigginton to line out.

Game notes
Suzuki's first of two hits was his 23rd infield single, and 15th in his last 24 games. ... Jones had his 23rd multihit game of the season.