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Berken's big test

We all know that it isn't going to get any easier for the Orioles over the final weeks of the season -- with the possibility exception of that Cleveland series -- but I'm still intrigued by the up-and-down performance of Jason Berken (left). He has rebounded nicely from that discouraging 1-9 start, which says something good about the guy and something bad about those of us (me included) who gave up on him, even though you could see he had some decent stuff and was getting no run support.

Tonight's series finale against the Red Sox is just another test of his mettle. The Sox just crushed David Hernandez and the O's in the opener last year, their first five hits of the game failing to come down anywhere on the field. Berken can probably identify with that, since he lasted just 1 1/3 innings in his last start against the Red Sox and gave up six runs on seven hits.

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This will be Berken's third start against the Sox, but the first at Fenway Park, which isn't going to make things any easier. In his first appearance against them, he lasted five innings and gave up four runs on eight hits.

He'll probably need to do better than that tonight to stay on the upswing, but the late-season indicators are pointing in the right direction. He has given up three earned runs or fewer in five of his last six starts and is facing veteran Paul Byrd, who is coming off a blow up against the White Sox in his second start since coming back out of semi-retirement.

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Associated Press photo

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