BALTIMORE – The smallest crowd in the 18-year history of Camden Yards included quite a few fans eager to see Baltimore Orioles right-hander Jason Berken in his major league debut.
Even though the weather was awful, the Berken backers thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Backed by three home runs, Berken got his big league career off to a memorable start by helping the Orioles defeat the Toronto Blue Jays 7-2 Tuesday night.
Summoned from Triple-A Norfolk to replace Adam Eaton in the rotation, Berken (1-0) gave up two runs, seven hits and three walks in five innings.
“It was great. It’s obviously been a dream of mine since I was a kid,” he said. “To come out here and get a win, I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Only 10,130 fans showed up on a miserable night in which temperatures dipped into the low 10s C and a steady mist swirled through the stadium from the outset. Those in attendance included Berken’s parents, grandparents, his wife, a few uncles and aunts and several friends.
“It was a special night to share with everybody,” he said.
Marco Scutaro had three hits for the Blue Jays, who have lost eight straight – their longest skid since a nine-game run in May 2007. With three losses in Boston, three more in Atlanta and two in Baltimore, Toronto is mired in its longest road losing streak since an eight-game slide in 2002.
“We’re just in a rut right now,” Blue Jays designated hitter Kevin Millar said. “You just got to go out there and keep having good thoughts and eventually it’s going to turn around. It definitely hasn’t been fun, but you got to dig deep.”
Berken retired the side in order only once, but stranded five runners in scoring position.
“The most important thing was his poise,” Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. “We’ve had guys before come up and they’ve had just as good of stuff. But there’s more to it than just having stuff and having tools. It’s the ability to focus, the ability to not get out of control, stay in your lane, looking like you fit.”
Baltimore trailed 2-0 before Aubrey Huff hit a solo shot in the second inning, Adam Jones added a two-run drive in the fifth and rookie Nolan Reimold homered with one on in the sixth. All three homers came off Ricky Romero (2-1), who was handed his first big league loss.
“I just left fastballs up and they made me pay for it,” Romero said. “It’s disappointing, you know? You try to get a win for the team and you come up short.”
After Berken left, Matt Albers pitched two innings and Jim Johnson got six outs for his first save.
The first batter Berken faced was Scutaro, who doubled to center. After Aaron Hill lined out to first, Adam Lind hit an RBI double.
In the second inning, a walk and singles by Lyle Overbay and Rod Barajas made it 2-0. Berken avoided further damage by striking out Joe Inglett and getting Scutaro to hit into a double play.
Down 2-1 in the fifth, Toronto loaded the bases with two outs before Berken finished on a high note by getting Scott Rolen to hit a routine fly to center.
Toronto went 2 for 13 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10.
“It’s pretty much been the same thing the last eight days,” Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. “We just can’t get hits with guys on base.”
Jones hit his 11th home run in the bottom half after Brian Roberts drew a two-out walk. In the sixth, Ty Wigginton led off with a double and Reimold connected for the third time in 12 games since being recalled from Norfolk.
Roberts doubled in two runs off Scott Downs in the eighth.
Notes: C Matt Wieters, Baltimore’s top prospect, will join the big league club Friday, Orioles president Andy MacPhail said. … Rolen stranded five runners, including three in scoring position. … Toronto has gone seven games and 67 innings without a home run.