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Must C Clutch: Berkman puts Cards ahead late

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals honored Willie McGee, then they went out and played a game that McGee's Cardinals would scarcely have recognized.

Hours after McGee threw out a ceremonial first pitch, and on the bobblehead night for the patron saint of "Whiteyball," the Redbirds played powerball. St. Louis got all of its runs from a pair of home runs in a hard-fought, 5-4 comeback win against the Pirates on Friday. The Cards overcame a rough beginning by Jake Westbrook to win their second straight game after dropping seven out of nine.

Lance Berkman's one-out, two-run blast in the eighth inning was the go-ahead blow for the Cards. It was Berkman's 30th home run of the season, the first time he has reached that milestone since 2007 and the sixth time in his Major League career.

"It's satisfying," Berkman said. "I feel like I have 30-home run power, and I feel like I ought to hit that many in any given year. But for whatever reason, I haven't done it in a while. So to get back to that level is, on a personal note, it feels pretty good."

Berkman's long ball followed an earlier shot from Yadier Molina, a three-run homer that tied the game in the second inning. St. Louis totaled six hits on the evening, but concentrated them well and took advantage of a couple of key walks by Pittsburgh pitchers.

Berkman brushed off the notion that the Cardinals were too reliant on the home run, pointing out that that's the kind of roster the club has.

"Obviously, you get, 'Wow, they depend too much on the home run,'" he said. "Well, we've got guys that that's the kind of hitter they are. ... If you don't like home runs, don't watch us play."

The comeback got Westbrook off the hook and made Kyle McClellan the winning pitcher. Arthur Rhodes pitched the seventh, McClellan took the eighth and finished it off in the ninth.

It was the fourth consecutive game in which the Cardinals' starter allowed at least four runs, though three of the tallies against Edwin Jackson on Thursday were unearned. Like Jackson, Westbrook was largely effective save for one costly inning.

In Westbrook's case, it was an ugly first. Pittsburgh put four straight men on base to begin the game. In total, three hits, two walks and a sacrifice fly added up to a 3-0 Bucs lead before the Cardinals came to bat. He stabilized, though, allowing one run over his last five innings.

"When you have a slow start like that, you have to tell yourself you can't give up any more and that's all they get," Westbrook said. "I was a little frustrated with the one that I did give up after that, but Yadi had a big homer and Lance had an even bigger homer that late in the ballgame. That's the reason why you have to hang in there and put up zeros, because the offense that we have is capable of putting up numbers real fast."

The Cards came back quickly. Matt Holliday drew a leadoff walk in the second, and David Freese poked a one-out single. That brought up Molina, who extended his career high with his 12th homer of the year.

Pittsburgh took the lead back in the fourth, and remained ahead until the eighth, when another Holliday walk put another Pittsburgh pitcher in trouble. Berkman followed the free pass with his homer, and the Cards had a lead they would not relinquish.

"[The pitch from Jose Veras] was down, but it was working back to his swing path," said Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle. "He's had a fantastic year. You talk about some shopping in the offseason, what an acquisition he has been."

Berkman drove in his 80th and 81st runs of the year. With 30 games remaining, he has an outside shot at the third 40-homer season in his career and seems likely to reach 35 for the third time.

"Our expectation, which was realistic, if we could keep him healthy, was that he would hit like he's hit against us," manager Tony La Russa said. "And he's got, what, five weeks to go? And he's going to have the kind of year he's had with Houston time after time."

The Cardinals remained 9 1/2 games behind the Brewers in the National League Central. Comments