Orioles rookie Jason Berken's big league education continued Monday night, when he squared off against a playoff team for the first time in his brief career. Berken trailed after facing just two Boston batters, and the Red Sox cuffed him around for eight hits and four earned runs in five innings en route to earning a 4-0 win over the O's.
Still, when asked to evaluate Berken's start, manager Dave Trembley spoke mainly in positives.
"We didn't win the game, obviously, but you're playing a very good team in the Red Sox. From the first pitch to the last pitch, we gave a very good effort," he said. "Berken's got some guts for me. He ain't afraid. He got an education tonight facing a real good team and a team that knows how to approach every at-bat at the plate."
And from early in the game, that approach paid off. Boston's leadoff hitter, J.D. Drew, tripled over center fielder Adam Jones in the first inning and came around to score on a single by Dustin Pedroia. The Red Sox (47-20) didn't score again until the fourth, when Drew delivered a two-run home run as part of a three-run rally.
Drew, who wound up a double shy of the cycle, grounded out with a runner on base in the eighth. Trembley said that another of Drew's outs -- in the second inning -- told him a lot about Berken.
"He had to work so hard," said Trembley. "I think you learn two things. I think, one, you have to be able to locate and pitch inside. And the other thing is you've got to have a secondary pitch and a good offspeed pitch. The best pitch he threw tonight for me was he backed up his changeup to Drew with the bases loaded and he got a fly ball. They squared up mostly every fastball that he threw that was in the middle of the plate."
"Every outing for me is a learning experience," added Berken. "The last thing I'm going to do is sit here and feel sorry for myself. ... It's not easy to pitch in the big leagues. I will continue to work hard and get ready for the next start."
That's the bottom line. But when you look at the current trend he's working through, he may need more than effort.
Berken (1-5) has lost five straight decisions since winning his big league debut, and his recent body of work leaves cause for concern. The right-hander has racked up an 0-4 record and an 8.51 ERA in his past five outings, allowing at least four earned runs four times and getting knocked out before the end of the sixth four times.
Berken didn't speak to that trend Monday, but he did detail what makes the Red Sox so tough.
"They are really patient as a unit," he said. "They make you work out there and there are no easy outs. The biggest thing against a lineup like that is that you have to get ahead of them early and throw strike one. And once you fall into hitters counts -- especially against this team -- it's going to be tough to pitch."
Baltimore (34-42) couldn't do much damage against Jon Lester, who left after seven shutout innings. The Orioles notched just five hits -- all singles -- against Lester (7-6) and only pushed one runner into scoring position. Baltimore's loss snapped a three-game win streak and dropped the Orioles to 10-17 against division rivals.
And perhaps more importantly, it pushed Lester to 8-0 with a 2.18 ERA in 10 career starts against the Orioles. The last Baltimore opponent to win his first eight decisions against the Orioles was Toronto's Todd Stottlemyre, and current Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay has the longest active streak with nine straight wins against Baltimore.
Aubrey Huff, who went 0-for-4 on Monday night, said Lester is a handful to handle.
"I think he knows he's had success against us, and whenever a pitcher has success against a team, it seems like they turn it up," said Huff. "There's no doubt he's got great stuff. You look at his numbers and you wonder how he gets hit. You see some video of him and it looks like he leaves some pitches over and he gets hit. Against us, we just don't get anything to hit. He's got an incredible fastball, a good cutter, a sinker, curveball."
Jones made a highlight reel grab over the wall to save a solo home run from Kevin Youkilis, and the Orioles made things interesting by pushing two runners on base in the ninth inning. That prompted an appearance from Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon, who retired the first hitter he faced to earn his 19th save.
"We hit too many line drives that they caught," said Trembley. "And then at the end, you're looking for a little bloop to fall in and [left fielder Jason Bay] makes a great catch. And [Luke] Scott's in the on-deck circle and that's the game."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less