With his club now out of contention, the rookie will nonetheless try to continue his strong recent play Tuesday as the Rays play the second of four games in Baltimore against the sputtering Orioles.
The Rays’ unexpected 11-game skid cost them any realistic chance to defend their AL pennant, but they finally ended the slide with an 8-4 win in Monday’s series opener.
Led by a four-hit, three-RBI day from shortstop Reid Brignac(notes), Tampa Bay (73-71) was relieved to see its offense break out after batting .168 and scoring eight total runs in the first seven games of its road trip.
“I’m very excited, but I’m more happy that we got the win,” Brignac said. “It got us back on the right path of where we were. It’s just good to come in and get that win. Now let’s see if we can continue on.”
The losing streak equaled one from 2007, the longest for the Rays since they lost 12 in a row Aug. 27-Sept. 10, 2004. The Rays have fallen 12 games behind Boston in the wild-card race, but would still like a strong performance in the final three weeks to help erase the bad feelings.
“It’s important. All this, the whole world revolves around confidence, and our confidence definitely took a hit by these last two weeks,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We have to regenerate our confidence. As we do that, we’re going to start winning.”
Niemann (12-5, 3.57 ERA) has been a victim of the Rays’ struggling offense, failing to get a decision in his last three outings despite a 1.66 ERA.
He has pitched at least seven innings in each of those games, and allowed one run in seven frames before the bullpen struggled during Tampa Bay’s 4-2 loss at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday.
The right-hander will be looking for a third straight win against the Orioles after he beat them with 7 1-3 strong innings in a 3-1 victory Aug. 19.
Berken (4-11, 6.02) has not lost since, going 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA in his last four starts as he tries to salvage the final month of what has been a difficult rookie season.
His last outing was less than stellar, as he gave up four runs - three earned - and walked four in 5 1-3 innings of the Orioles’ 7-5 loss Wednesday at Boston.
“(I’ve) got to try to limit the damage. That’s something I’ve struggled with in the past, obviously the big innings,” Berken told the Orioles’ official Web site. “Obviously, you don’t want to give up any runs, period. But if you do, hopefully you can just limit it to one or two, and just go from there.”
Berken’s unbeaten streak is surprising considering the Orioles (58-85) haven’t been doing much winning lately. They’re an AL-worst 18-37 since the All-Star break, including an 8-17 mark at Camden Yards.