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STL@HOU: Berkman doubles home the go-ahead run

HOUSTON -- Lance Berkman's return to Minute Maid Park on Tuesday night nearly went perfectly -- except the outcome.

Berkman, who was traded to the Yankees last season at the Trade Deadline, went 2-for-5, delivering what would have been the winning double in the top of the ninth, before Cardinals closer Mitchell Boggs suffered his first career blown save in a 6-5 loss to the Astros.

"It's my job to try to drive guys in when I have a chance," said Berkman, who is hitting .378. "I did it for us in the ninth and gave us a chance to win the game, but they did a great job coming back.

"I didn't want the story to be about me coming here. It needs to be about us coming here and trying to win games. Tonight, we didn't win."

Berkman came to the plate in the ninth after Matt Holliday hit a leadoff double. Berkman, who started at first base in place of Albert Pujols, roped a double to right field that plated Holliday. In his first game at Minute Maid Park after playing there for 12 seasons, Berkman set up a fantastic finish. "That's the way he's been playing all season," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said.

Bill Hall changed everything in the bottom of the inning with a one-out, bases-loaded single through the infield to win the game for the Astros.

Berkman received cheers when his picture first appeared on the stadium's giant screen, catching balls at first base during infield warmups in the bottom of the first inning.

He received a standing ovation from most of the crowd of 25,526 when he stepped to the plate in the second inning, said thank you with two waves and promptly singled.

"That was nice," Berkman said of the ovation. "I knew it was either going to be way one way or way the other, either standing 'O' or octopus on the field.

"There's many times you're up there with the nerves just racing. Despite being jumpy, you've got to be able to execute a swing. All the anxiety happens beforehand. I definitely felt jittery before I stepped into the box."

The Cardinals wasted Berkman's work, beating themselves with an error and wild pitch, along with a passed ball by catcher Yadier Molina, in the last of the ninth.

Houston's Brian Bogusevic, in his first big league at-bat of the season, led off with a pinch-hit single. Michael Bourn bunted, Boggs misplayed the ball and both runners were safe. Four batters later, the Cardinals were left licking their wounds.

"It was a tough night," Boggs said. "I didn't make the pitches I need to make. I thought [on the bunt] I could get it quick and go to third and didn't make a play.

"I'm not going to make any excuses or take anything away from them. They made good at-bats. I dug myself a hole which was hard to get out of. They made me pay for my mistakes. This happens. It's not like I've never had failure before. Everybody in here has."

With two outs in the top of the eighth and the game tied at 5, La Russa sent in Pujols to pinch-hit for Tyler Greene with a runner on second and two outs. Pujols was walked intentionally, and Colby Rasmus popped out to end the frame.

"You take a chance to win the game," La Russa said. "It's either going to be Greene or Colby. I thought Colby had a better shot. I thought he's been more productive. I'm glad I did it that way because Albert would have been sitting on the bench when we got beat. I knew they were going to walk him."

La Russa was more upset about his team's lack of hitting than the bottom of the ninth inning.

La Russa pointed to David Freese leading off the sixth inning with a double, with St. Louis leading 3-1, and the Cardinals not scoring. Molina couldn't bunt him over, and Freese was forced at third. Nick Punto struck out and, after an intentional walk to Daniel Descalso, who had three extra-base hits, starter Jaime Garcia struck out to end the inning.

"We had three chances to get the guy over, and in, and we missed all three," La Russa said. "We put our pitching in a tough spot all game, including the ninth. We didn't execute offensively three times. You can't miss chances to add runs like that."

"You could say that about every single game ever played," Berkman said. "There's always more offense out there. Part of the game is maybe the [other] guy executing pitches when he has to. We scored five runs. That usually wins the game in the National League."

Left-hander Garcia did a credible job, giving up four runs, three of them earned, in 5 1/3 innings. He gave up his first home run of the season, a solo shot to Hunter Pence in the fourth.

"I thought he was OK," La Russa said of Garcia. "He was good in spots. He made a couple of mistakes."

Garcia ran into trouble in the sixth inning with the help of an error by Freese at third. With runners on first and third, Garcia walked Hall to load the bases, then allowed an RBI single to Brett Wallace, and he was lifted.

"It was a good first couple of innings," Garcia said. "I got outs when I needed them. I didn't do a very good job in the last inning I pitched. I was trying to stay out there as long as I could. I lost it a little bit on the walk to Bill Hall."

Hall wasn't finished tormenting the Cardinals. Carlos Lee had been walked intentionally in front of Hall in the seventh and Hall grounded into a double play.

"I wanted another shot," he said. "I was able to get another shot and this is a game of inches. I pretty much hit the same ground ball and pulled it a little more, but if they're in double-play depth it's probably another double-play ball. Being that it was infield in, it found a hole." Comments