The 2012 Cubs, as you know, were a mess at the MLB level. It was Theo Epstein’s first team as President of Baseball Operations and he had begun a tear-down and rebuild.
On their way to 101 losses, those Cubs had used 11 different starting pitchers and then wanted an additional arm when Blake Parker had an elbow strain in early September. So they claimed Jason Berken off waivers from the Orioles.
Berken had been the O’s sixth-round pick in 2006 and made the big leagues in 2009. He was pretty bad for them in 24 starts that year, a bit better in relief in 2010, worse again in 2011 and then Baltimore gave up on him in 2012. He spent most of that year in Triple-A, making only one big-league appearance for the Orioles.
He started a game for the Cubs against the Pirates September 15, 2012 and threw four mediocre innings, but the team was just playing out the string and so he got another start September 20 at Wrigley Field against the Reds.
And in the second inning, Berken wrote his name into the record books [VIDEO].
Berken struck out Denis Phipps, Ryan Hanigan, Didi Gregorius and Johnny Cueto in that inning. A wild pitch on strike three to Hanigan allowed him to reach base. Berken is one of seven Cubs to accomplish this feat; the most recent was Justin Grimm in 2015.
This game was by far Berken’s best big-league start. He threw six shutout innings, allowing two hits and two walks, with five strikeouts.
The game went scoreless into the seventh, but Dale Sveum pulled Berken after six even though his batting-order spot hadn’t come up. Berken had thrown just 86 pitches. The photo at the top of this post was taken at this game, September 20, 2012.
Cubs reliever Manny Corpas got pounded for five runs in the seventh inning. The Cubs scored three off Reds relievers, but the 5-3 loss was typical of that season.
Berken was released by the Cubs late in spring training 2013 and signed with the White Sox. He later pitched in the Giants, Phillies and Blue Jays organizations but never threw a big-league pitch after 2012.
He’ll always have a line in the record books under “struck out four in one inning.”
Fun fact, again: Jason Berken is about five weeks older than Jon Lester.