The 2007 season featured three no-hitters and numerous sparkling pitching performances as every season often does. Justin Verlander tossed the first of his career, Mark Buehrle notched one as well and in just his second career start, Clay Buchholz etched his name into history. Four different teams each recorded four complete-game shutouts. Brandon Webb pitched three of four for the Diamondbacks and a few other players tossed two.
All of those no-hitters and complete games were eclipsed by one Baltimore Orioles pitcher's performance on July 7. Erik Bedard not only had an extremely underrated 2007 season as the ace of the Orioles but pitched one of, if not the best, games of the 2007 season. His complete-game shutout against the Rangers on that day was the only complete game by an Orioles pitcher that season as well as the only complete game and shutout of Bedard's career, and man, was he brilliant in that effort.
Bedard's season was virtually a tale of two halves. He started his season with a horrific April that was marred by an opening day performance against Minnesota where he allowed six earned runs, also allowing another 13 over his last three starts of the month, finishing with a 6.09 ERA.
He trimmed it down over the next two months, and by the time the calendar rolled to July, his ERA was 3.36, nearly cutting his initial mark in half. By that point, he was well on his way to 200 strikeouts, recording 129.
Greeted rudely by the White Sox in his first start, another six-run outing, Bedard headed to Texas to make his second start of the month in hopes of turning it around against the Rangers, and boy, did he turn everything around.
Both times Bedard allowed a hit in this game, shortstop Brandon Fahey came to the rescue on the next batter. Desi Relaford hit a one-out single in the first and Michael Young followed by grounding into a 6U3 double play to end the inning. Jay Gibbons' home run in the second proved to be all Bedard needed in this effort.
Bedard went to work over the next few innings, striking out the side in the second and fifth. He retired the next 19 batters he faced, absolutely carving the listless Rangers lineup and picking up 12 strikeouts in the process. The Rangers had no answer for Bedard, who was just spinning his curveball against their roster.
He allowed a leadoff single to Sammy Sosa in the eighth, but Bedard's best friend Brandon Fahey was there for the next batter as Marlon Byrd grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to erase that chance. Fahey delivered an RBI single in his next at-bat to give Bedard some more breathing room and stretching the lead to three.
Bedard finished off his effort with a flourish, fanning all three batters in order and etching his name into the history books for Baltimore. Finishing with 15 strikeouts, he joined Mike Mussina as the only Orioles to do so in a game. Mussina did it three times, once in the postseason in 1997 and twice during the 2000 season. His final three strikeouts were impressive, fanning Gerald Laird, Brad Wilkerson and Travis Metcalf in order.
Bedard's final line: 9 IP, 2 H, 15 K, 0 BB, 98 GSc. The game score of 98 was the highest game score of the 2007 season. To put it in perspective, the three no-hitters tossed during the season had lower game scores (Verlander, 95, Buchholz, 93, Buehrle, 94) and it was tied for the highest game score in Orioles history with Mike Mussina's start against Minnesota on August 1, 2000. No other pitcher surpassed a game score of 96 during the 2007 season.
To further illustrate how one-in-a-million dominant Bedard was in his start, he never tossed a complete game or shutout for the rest of his career, never struck out more than 11 in a game for the rest of his career and never passed a game score of 83 or better again. He was absolutely in command and was so impressive for this start, so it is crazy to me that he never came close again. This performance was the keynote in his American League Pitcher of the Month award for July.
Erik Bedard was great during the 2007 season, but unfortunately, it ended early due to an injury. He set Orioles records, breaking their single-season strikeout mark set by Mussina with his 221 strikeouts, which could have been even larger had he played in September. He led all of MLB in strikeouts per nine (10.9) and hits per nine (6.9), all capping off a nice 2007 season where he accrued 5.0 fWAR and sub-3 SIERA and xFIP marks. With a 3.16 ERA and 3.19 FIP, he cemented himself as the ace of the Orioles' staff.
It's a shame this game doesn't get more respect, but it is good that it is at least immortalized in Orioles history and on MLB.com. Bedard's game was incredible and deserves all the respect it should get since it stands alone as the best performance of the 2007 season.