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Berkman launches his 28th homer of the year

ST. LOUIS -- On a night when it looked for a moment as if Jake Westbrook might make history and Lance Berkman returned to action in a big way, things turned against the Cardinals quickly as their bid for a three-game sweep of the Cubs evaporated.

After taking the first two games of the series by outscoring Chicago by 15 runs, the Cardinals fell to the Cubs, 6-3, on Sunday night at Busch Stadium before a sellout crowd.

Westbrook started for the Cards and retired the first 16 batters he faced. He had his sinkerball working early, getting nine ground-ball outs during that stretch.

The right-hander was perfect for 5 1/3 innings, but lost his bid for a perfect game with a walk to the Cubs' No. 8 hitter, Koyie Hill.

Things turned south for Westbrook after that, and he lost his no-hitter two batters later when Reed Johnson singled.

"If I get [Hill] out and get the pitcher coming up with two outs, it's a different game," Westbrook said. "It's frustrating."

From then, the floodgates were open and the Cubs pushed across four runs in the sixth inning. Westbrook's control faltered and he walked three batters in the frame, including one that brought home a run.

"The inning kind of snowballed on me and they put up a big inning," Westbrook said. "With the offense that we have, we have to try to avoid those innings. If we keep it to one or two runs, it's a different ballgame."

After a perfect start to the game, Westbrook allowed six of the final eight batters he faced to reach base. The biggest blow, though, was the walk to Hill, as Westbrook lost his rhythm.

"I was making pitches and then I just wasn't able to make any after that [walk]," Westbrook said. "That's the frustrating part of that ballgame, to be pitching so well and to have that big inning. It hurt us big time."

The Cardinals roared back in their half of the inning, however, with Berkman delivering a three-run home run to put the Redbirds on the board. In his first game back since Tuesday, the slugger turned on a 1-1 pitch from Ryan Dempster and drove it an estimated 401 feet into right-center.

"That gave us a real shot, gave us a lot of momentum," said manager Tony La Russa.

Berkman's 28th home run of the year, tops in the National League, landed in roughly the same area as David Freese's fifth-inning double, which was reviewed by the umpires to determine if it was in fact a home run. After the official review, though, the call on the field of a ground-rule double stood.

The ball appeared to hit the concrete wall behind the outfield fence and bounced back into play, prompting crew chief Derryl Cousins to opt for a second look.

There was a similar play during Tuesday's game against Houston, when Albert Pujols' home run was reviewed after it bounced off the concrete in left-center. That homer stood, but on Sunday, the call did not go the home team's way.

"The explanation is there's a piece of the wall that's not covered by the mat and we've just got to solve that because if it's hitting the concrete and coming back, that's still part of the fence," La Russa said. "We've just got to make sure we get all of that fence covered with the mat and put an end to that."

Westbrook lasted six innings, allowing four runs on three hits. He struck out three against three walks and did not return for the seventh with his pitch count at 77.

The Cardinals threatened in the seventh and the eighth, but any hopes of a rally were thwarted when the Redbirds bounced into double plays to end each frame.

"We missed a chance in the [seventh] inning," La Russa said. "We didn't have a whole lot of chances."

Dempster went six innings, allowing three runs on seven hits while striking out six. He avoided trouble for most of the game, save for the Cardinals' three-run sixth. While he was not perfect, Dempster nearly went pitch-for-pitch with Westbrook and kept the Cubs in the game.

"[Westbrook] was doing a really good job, and I was trying to make pitches and stay with him," Dempster said.

Rafael Furcal, the Cardinals' newest addition, made his St. Louis debut as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning and reached on a fielder's choice. As he stepped into the on-deck circle, the Cards faithful gave the shortstop a standing ovation.

The Cards fell 2 1/2 games behind the Brewers in the National League Central. They begin a three-game series in Milwaukee on Monday.

"It's the biggest series of the year," said infielder Ryan Theriot. "It's a big series, we can gain some ground and put ourselves in a good position."

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