Orioles leave Bronx empty-handed

Orioles leave Bronx empty-handed

NEW YORK -- The first win came so easily. The second hasn't come at all. Jason Berken continued his long journey between victories on Wednesday, when he struggled early and grew stronger as the game progressed. Berken gave up four runs in the first inning, sinking the Orioles to an early deficit and a 6-4 loss to the Yankees.

Baltimore manager Dave Trembley credited Berken for salvaging his start, but he also reiterated a comment he made before the game. You don't beat contending teams, Trembley had said, unless you outpitch them.

"Like I've said, you're not going to beat this team -- or you're not going to beat the better teams in our division -- by outslugging them," said Trembley, referring to his own argument. "You're going to beat them by setting the tone with pitching, and we did not do that today. We did not set the tone of the game with pitching, and if you're facing a guy like [A.J.] Burnett, you'd better do that, because he's going to come out and be stingy."

Berken, who won his first Major League start and has struggled for much of the past six weeks, fell behind early in the series finale against New York. Leadoff hitter Derek Jeter reached him for a ringing double, and Alex Rodriguez dumped home the game's first run with a single. New York went on to bat around in the first inning and push home three more runs.

For Berken, it was more of the same. Trembley talked openly about needing a good outing from Berken (1-8) on Wednesday, but that didn't stop the rookie from pushing his team behind from the get-go. Berken gathered himself, though, and with the exception of a Jorge Posada home run, he pitched scoreless baseball through the sixth.

And it was that stretch, rather than the opening inning, that Berken will try to remember.

"My thought was to just try to keep them right there, pitch deep in the game and give us a chance to win," Berken said. "Obviously, our lineup is very capable of scoring a lot of runs, and I really thought if I was able to pitch deep into the game -- keep them right where they were -- I really thought we'd have a chance to win."

Truth be told, that part came to pass. The Orioles (41-53) were never really out of the game Wednesday, and they mounted enough of a comeback to turn the ninth inning into a save situation. Adam Jones and Nick Markakis hit back-to-back homers off Brian Bruney, then closer Mariano Rivera got the last out for his 28th save.

"Some of the mistakes that we made, they're not making," said Jones. "We just have to get better, [and] that comes with time and work.

"We're competing. It's always that one thing, that one inning, that one baserunning mistake, the one defensive mistake. It's just that one thing that sets us back a little bit."

In this case, it was the first inning. Berken gave up five hits in that rally and just two more for the rest of the game. Trembley said the right-hander has been pitching up in the zone far more frequently since his big league debut at the end of May, and Berken said he may have taken a step forward with his latest outing.

"Obviously, losing eight straight games isn't fun," said Berken, referring to his eight consecutive losing decisions. "But for me, the biggest thing is just to try to find ways to get better, find ways to be more consistent. I think today was a step in the right direction after that first inning. Things went well. ... Obviously, I wish my win-loss record was a lot better, but I think I need to focus on things aside from that that I need to do to get better."

Trembley took time before the series to issue warnings to both Berken and Rich Hill, and he watched as both pitchers struggled to step in the right direction. Trembley stressed to both pitchers that they're getting an excellent opportunity with the Orioles and that they need to take advantage, a lesson Berken took to heart.

"Every time I go out there, I have something to prove," said Berken, summarizing his own internal monologue. "You can't focus on things like that. That's something I learned when I was in the Minor Leagues -- you can't focus on things that you can't control. I think the biggest thing for me is to focus on things I can control -- pitching well [and] trying to help our team to get better. Talking to Dave was good. The conversation that we had was great. By no means did I put more pressure on myself. It's just a matter of getting better and building off this start."

The Orioles, meanwhile, find themselves struggling to reverse a difficult trend. Baltimore has lost five of six games since the All-Star break and 13 of its past 20 -- and that's not even the worst of it. The Orioles, who hold the worst road record in the American League, are 2-25 in their past 27 road games against AL East rivals.

And as if that wasn't ominous enough, Baltimore still has to face Boston, a team that has dominated the recent series history. The Orioles will send Brad Bergesen, Jeremy Guthrie and David Hernandez to the mound in the next three games, and after that, they could well change as many as two slots in the rotation.

"We really felt like we had an opportunity to win Game 1, and it didn't happen," said Trembley, summarizing his team's series in New York. "Last night, Hill didn't pitch good. That's a game that we didn't get beat -- we lost. ... Today, we come out in the day game after a night game, and you need to pitch good ... to give your guys an opportunity to try and win. They put four on the board in the first inning, and we had to battle uphill after that."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.