The Cardinals played their 82nd game Thursday night, signaling the start of their second half of the season. But already, Lance Berkman has surpassed anything he did last year.
Berkman, who is almost certain to be on the National League All-Star squad for the July 12 game, homered from both sides of the plate Thursday while serving as the Cardinals' designated hitter, giving him 20 homers and 58 RBI for the season. Last year, when Berkman still was recovering from spring training knee surgery, he had only 14 homers and 58 RBI overall while playing with the Astros and the Yankees.
The Cardinals ended June
much as they had begun it. They swept the first three-game series they played in
the month, beating the Cubs. They swept their last three-game series at
But they still managed to
finish the month where they began it. They are in first place in the NL Central,
Berkman had his fourth multi-homer game of the season -- the home runs traveled 422 and 444 feet. He began the month hitting .338 and finished it at .296. However, he insisted his right wrist, injured when making a diving catch last month, was all right.
"That certainly hasn't been the problem," Berkman said. "I would like to have had a few more hits, but if I'm going to have very few, I'd like for them to be homers."
Berkman did have nine homers in the month.
The Cardinals turned four double plays Thursday, three of them behind left-hander Jaime Garcia, who earned his first win in four weeks and seventh overall despite allowing five runs and 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings. Third basemen David Freese and Daniel Descalso each started a double play, as did second baseman Skip Schumaker and shortstop Ryan Theriot.
Descalso made a brilliant stop and then initiated a double play after replacing Freese in the eighth inning. Manager Tony La Russa is trying not to overwork Freese after the latter was sidelined by a broken left hand for eight weeks.
Freese, making his third start after coming off the disabled list, had two more hits, giving him five for the series.
"We were reeling there for a little bit," Berkman said. "I don't think you can underrate the value of getting Freese and (Nick) Punto back. As they soon as they came back, we had a little extra spark."
RF Jon Jay, after
visiting the Babe Ruth museum in
2B Skip Schumaker extended his hitting streak to nine games (13-for-31, .419). He also was involved in all four Cardinals double plays, pivoting three and starting one.
Rookie Tony Cruz, normally a catcher, made his first appearance at first base and was on the receiving end of four double plays besides contributing two hits. Cruz and rookie 1B Mark Hamilton had four hits in the No. 8 spot in the series.
LHP Jaime Garcia gave up two homers in a game for the first time since his first start in the majors two years ago. "He had really good stuff," manager Tony La Russa said. "He was just pressing every once in a while. But he got a win today, and that's a step in the right direction." Garcia (7-3) had not won since June 3.
RHP Fernando Salas earned his 13th save in 15 tries. But RH reliever Jason Motte helped stabilize matters in the sixth after LHP Jaime Garcia was knocked out. Motte allowed just an infield hit while fanning two. He was throwing in the high 90s.
RHP Brandon Dickson had his contract purchased from Class AAA Memphis to replace released RHP Ryan Franklin. Dickson has been a starter in the minors, where he was 4-7 with a 3.86 ERA over 100 1/3 innings, but he will be a long reliever for the Cardinals.
BY THE NUMBERS: 11-15 - The Cardinals' record in June. They are 4-5 since 1B Albert Pujols went on the disabled list.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He had a cool spell. Otherwise, you'd hit like you did in high school, .450."
- Manager Tony La Russa, discussing DH Lance Berkman's recent slump at bat—before Berkman hit two homers on Thursday.
RHP Eduardo Sanchez (mild right shoulder strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 13. He is unlikely to return before mid-July.
1B Albert Pujols (sprained left wrist) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 20. Pujols was diagnosed with a non-displaced fracture of the radius bone in his left forearm, and he will be out until late July or early August.
OF Allen Craig (broken right kneecap) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 8.
C Gerald Laird (broken right index finger) went on the 15-day disabled list May 23.
RHP Adam Wainwright (Tommy John surgery in February 2011) went on the 60-day disabled list March 25. He will miss the entire 2011 season. He was scheduled to play catch on flat ground in late June.