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STL@BAL: Berkman blasts his second homer of the game

BALTIMORE -- The Cardinals came to an American League ballpark and played some American League offense. St. Louis completed its most productive three-game stretch at the plate since early May with a 9-6 win over Baltimore, completing a three-game Interleague sweep.

The Cardinals moved back into a tie for first place in the National League Central with the win, having gained three games on the Brewers in three days. The sweep is their first on the road since Aug. 9-11, 2010, when they took three from the Reds at Great American Ball Park. Their last road sweep of an AL foe came June 19-21, 2009, at Kansas City.

In total, Cards hitters hung 20 runs on Orioles pitchers. The last time the Cardinals managed so many runs in a three-game stretch was from May 4-6, when they scored 20 over two games against the Marlins and one against the Brewers.

"The lineup got deeper," manager Tony La Russa said, referring to the returns from injury of David Freese and Nick Punto. "That's exactly what it is. And also, the DH. Our DHs were productive."

Lance Berkman was the designated hitter on Thursday, and he was much more than productive. Berkman launched two mammoth home runs, totaling 866 feet in distance, for three RBIs. He went deep from each side of the plate, and his second homer was the 55th to go onto Eutaw Street in the 20 seasons played at Camden Yards.

"It just feels good," Berkman said. "A lot of times, even when you hit a home run, you don't quite catch all of it. But I got most of both of those balls, so it felt really good."

The onslaught started fairly quietly, with two singles, a walk and a sacrifice fly adding up to a two-run lead in the second inning. In the third, however, the Cardinals began unloading on starter Brian Matusz.

Matt Holliday drilled a one-out double, and Berkman followed it with a 422-foot right-handed home run that made it 4-0. An inning later, Jon Jay's three-run homer capped a four-run frame and chased Matusz. It was Jay's first Major League homer off a lefty.

Berkman added a second home run in the seventh, this one traveling 444 feet, off reliever Alfredo Simon, a right-hander. It was the fourth time in Berkman's career that he homered from both sides of the plate in a game, and the second time in 2011. Before Berkman it had been 17 years since a Cardinal accomplished the feat.

"He's done a lot better job right-handed," said O's manager Buck Showalter. "We walked two guys last year against the Yankees to make sure we got to him right-handed. ... Through his career, everyone's tried to turn him around, but he's in a pretty good spot right now."

If it was a rough night for Matusz -- and it was -- Cards starter Jaime Garcia didn't exactly have smooth sailing. Staked to a big lead, he faltered a bit in the middle innings and didn't finish the sixth.

Garcia was reached for two singles and Nolan Reimold's three-run homer in the fourth after having two outs with the bases empty. An inning later, he issued a one-out walk followed by a Mark Reynolds homer, and he was done. It was the second time in his career that he allowed two homers in a game. The only previous time was in his first big league start, on July 20, 2008.

Perhaps more notably, it was the fifth time in eight starts that Garcia did not complete the eighth inning. He pitched aggressively and threw strikes, but those strikes were hit hard.

"It's a tough place," Garcia said. "It's a good lineup. I made a couple of mistakes, and when I made mistakes, I paid for it. Sometimes you're able to make a couple of mistakes a game and you still get by. But in a place like this, and with their lineup ... I left a couple of pitches up, and the pitches that I left up, they hit [them] out of the ballpark."

But he got enough help for it not to matter. The Redbirds pounded the struggling Matusz, completing an excellent offensive series and taking a good feeling along on their flight to Tampa for three games against the Rays in St. Petersburg.

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