Though his time with the Cardinals was brief, Lance Berkman made the most of it. Because he played an integral role in the Cardinals’ 2011 World Series championship season, Berkman always will have a prominent place in franchise history.
Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak recently indicated Berkman won’t fit into the team’s 2013 plans. Berkman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he probably will file for free agency.
In 2011, his first Cardinals season after joining St. Louis as a free agent, Berkman played right field and contributed 31 home runs, 94 RBI and a huge amount of clubhouse leadership. In 2012, Berkman moved to first base but was sidelined for most of the season because of knee injuries. He had two homers and seven RBI.
In a tribute to the player nicknamed “The Puma,” we look, in chronological order, at the most memorable performances in the Cardinals career of Lance Berkman.
_ April 13, 2011, Cardinals 15, Diamondbacks 5, at Phoenix: Early in the season, Berkman established himself as a run producer with power who would help protect the Cardinals from intimidation tactics.
After Cardinals batters Ryan Theriot and Matt Holliday were hit by pitches from Arizona ace Ian Kennedy in the second inning, Berkman stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two out.
Kennedy delivered a 3-and-2 fastball that Berkman hit over the left-field wall for his sixth career grand slam and fourth home run of the three-game series. Berkman had five RBI in the game; 10 in the series. Boxscore
“This has the potential to be an explosive offense,” Berkman said to the Post-Dispatch.
_ April 28, 2011, Cardinals 11, Astros 7, at Houston: In the finale of a three-game series, the first he had played in Houston after spending 12 years with the Astros, Berkman produced two home runs and five RBI. He totaled eight hits in 14 at-bats with seven RBI in the series at Minute Maid Park. Boxscore
“I don’t think I could have expected or asked to have a better return to Minute Maid than this,” Berkman said to St. Louis reporter Derrick Goold.
_ May 5, 2011, Cardinals 6, Marlins 3, at St. Louis: Berkman broke a 3-3 tie by hitting the first pitch from reliever Michael Dunn for a three-run home run. With a .392 batting average and 32 RBI, Berkman was having a “storybook revival,” wrote Joe Strauss in a Post-Dispatch article headlined “The Big Puma Roars.” Boxscore
“I feel like I’m seeing the ball good every at-bat. And that’s comforting,” Berkman said.
_ June 30, 2011, Cardinals 9, Orioles 6, at Baltimore: Berkman hit a home run from each side of the plate, helping St. Louis complete a three-game sweep in its first regular-season visit to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Berkman’s first homer went 422 feet to left and the second carried 444 feet to right. Boxscore
“A lot of times when you hit a home run you don’t catch all of it,” Berkman told Strauss. “But I got most of both of those balls. It felt really good.”
_ Sept. 19, 2011, Cardinals 4, Phillies 3, at Philadelphia: Berkman ripped a curve from Philadelphia ace Roy Halladay for a two-run home run in the first inning. Boxscore
The Cardinals, who had trailed the wild-card leaders, the Braves, by 10.5 games on Aug. 25, moved to within 2.5 games of Atlanta. “It’s a huge momentum shift,” Berkman said to the Post-Dispatch.
_ Oct. 19, 2011, Cardinals 3, Rangers 2, at St. Louis: In the first game of the World Series, Berkman got the Cardinals the lead in the fourth inning with a two-run single. St. Louis won, 3-2. Boxscore
“I feel like we have to win the National League style of games if we’re going to win this thing,” Berkman said to St. Louis columnist Bernie Miklasz. “And tonight was a National League-style game, 3-2, good pitching, good defense, timely hitting. I don’t think we want to get into a gorilla-ball type series with these guys.”
_ Oct. 27, 2011, Cardinals 10, Rangers 9, at St. Louis: Berkman delivered a remarkable performance in a remarkable Game 6 of the World Series.
Berkman hit a two-run home run in the first. He walked and scored the tying run on David Freese’s two-out triple in the ninth. In the 10th, Berkman drove in the tying run with a two-out, two-strike single to center, setting up Freese for the game-winning home run in the 11th. Boxscore
“If that’s not the best postseason game of all-time, I don’t know what could top it,” Berkman said to the Post-Dispatch. “That was unbelievable.”
Asked about his run-scoring hit in the 10th, Berkman said, “It’s not fun to go up there with the season on the line, but the experience is incredible.”