Through nine batters, Erik Bedard breezed through the San Francisco Giants lineup. Over the next nine batters, the Giants buried him.
What started as a strong outing for Bedard fell apart in the fourth inning as the Giants beat the Pirates, 6-5, Friday night at PNC Park.
He surrendered five runs, four earned, on four hits in 32/3 innings, adding to a stretch of troubling outings for the Pirates' lone left-handed starter. All of the Giants runs and hits against Bedard came in the fourth inning as they climbed back from an early 3-0 deficit.
"The fourth inning was a bad inning all around," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
Bedard has not pitched past the fifth inning in nine of his 17 starts this season, and his ERA in June and July is 7.39.
"We'll look at some tape [today] and try to help him figure some things out over the break," Hurdle said.
Bedard, who has battled a variety of injuries over his career, said his health is not a factor in his recent struggles.
"I feel better than I've felt in the last couple years," he said.
The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Pirates (46-37) and a three-game losing streak for the Giants (46-38).
Pedro Alvarez belted a 457-foot home run off Giants reliever Javier Lopez to pull the Pirates within one run in the eighth. It was Alvarez's 16th home run of the season, tying Andrew McCutchen for the team lead.
Barry Zito earned the win for the Giants, his seventh of the season, allowing four earned runs on seven hits in five innings.
The Giants added an insurance run in the seventh when Juan Cruz surrendered a leadoff double to Joaquin Arias, who scored on a sacrifice fly by Ryan Theriot to make it 6-4.
Casey McGehee hit a solo home run off of Zito in the fifth to help the Pirates pull within one run.
After cruising through the Giants order over the first three innings, facing nine batters without allowing a hit, Bedard faced nine batters in the fourth alone as the Giants surged ahead.
"I didn't feel anything different," Bedard said. "They were hitting the pitches."
Bedard issued a leadoff walk to Justin Christian, who scored when Theriot doubled to right-center field. Theriot and Christian got a bit of help on the play when McCutchen overran the ball, buying them extra time on the basepaths.
Two pitches later, Melky Cabrera tied the score, 3-3, with a home run to left field. Cabrera chased a curveball that catcher Rod Barajas went to block, low and in inside, crushing it about 10 rows deep.
"It was going to go in the dirt, but he hit a home run," Bedard said.
Bedard allowed the next two batters to reach base, and both scored -- Buster Posey on a single by catcher Hector Sanchez and Pablo Sandoval on an error by Josh Harrison when a ground ball from Arias ricocheted off the bottom of his glove.
In addition to Harrison's error, Neil Walker committed a throwing error in the inning.
"The errors didn't help things, but the ball was elevated," Hurdle said of Bedard's pitches in the inning.
Bedard's meltdown stole all the momentum from an offense that was pounding Zito early in the game.
The Pirates scored two runs in the third to extend an early lead. Josh Harrison led off the inning with a walk and scored when McCutchen tripled into the notch in left-center field. It was McCutchen's fifth triple of the season, tying his total from 2011 and 2010. He hit a career-high nine triples in 108 games in 2009.
Neil Walker drove in McCutchen with a double to left field that, had it been 8 inches higher, would have been a two-run home run. The RBI double gave the Pirates a 3-0 lead.
The Pirates hit three consecutive singles to start the first and grab a 1-0 lead. Harrison, Drew Sutton and McCutchen each singled to left field, the last of which scored Harrison from second. McGehee grounded into a double play, and after Walker walked, Alvarez struck out to end the inning.pirates
Michael Sanserino: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1722 or on Twitter @msanserino. First Published July 7, 2012 4:00 AM