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ATL@STL: Berkman rips an RBI double to right

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals outfielder Lance Berkman considers himself a streaky hitter.

And Berkman was on one of those bad streaks when the month of September began. The month could not have started much worse for Berkman, as he was 0-for-4 with four strikeouts against Milwaukee on Sept. 1.

That was the fifth game in a row in which Berkman was hitless -- an 0-for-14 slide.

But Berkman is back in April form as he had two hits, a walk, a run scored and an RBI to help the Cardinals to a 4-3 victory over Atlanta on Saturday in St. Louis. With the win, the Cardinals moved within 5 1/2 games of the Braves in the National League Wild Card race.

Berkman has had 12 hits in his 27 bats after the four-strikeout game and is hitting .600 (9-for-15) in the last four games, all St. Louis victories in a do-or-die situation against the two teams (Milwaukee and Atlanta) that the Cardinals are chasing for a playoff berth. He had a string of five consecutive hits and had reached base in seven consecutive plate appearances before he was retired in the eighth Saturday.

"Absolutely," Berkman said when asked about whether he was a streaky hitter. "All hitters are, to a certain extent. I feel like I can put together some pretty good runs and then you'll have some not so good ones to balance it out. That's why they keep averages."

Berkman had a tremendous April, when he hit .388 with eight home runs. He leveled off after that, but is on a roll again when he is needed the most.

"The big key is to jump out early like we did and Lance was a big part of it," manager Tony La Russa said. "He had some great at-bats. Then [Derek] Lowe settled down and it was all over."

Berkman had a two-out single in a two-run first inning, then added an RBI double in the third when the Cards scored their other two runs.

"If you play long enough, you'll run into a couple of good streaks," Berkman said. "I've had only one season [2006] where I felt I was pretty good for most of the year and that is the best season I have had. I feel good right now. I hope it keeps going for the whole month."

The Cardinals managed just one hit after the third, but were able to hang on with some solid relief pitching from Marc Rzepczynski, Fernando Salas and Jason Motte. Rzepczynski pitched a scoreless seventh, Salas a scoreless eighth and Motte earned the save with a scoreless ninth.

Things got interesting in the ninth. Jason Heyward drew a walk with one out. Motte retired pinch-hitter Chipper Jones on a fly to left field. Heyward then stole second and moved to third when catcher Yadier Molina's throw went into center field. It was a move which impressed the veteran Cardinals skipper.

"Fredi Gonzalez is an outstanding manager," La Russa said. "He had to follow a legend, Bobby Cox, and he showed some guts today with the steal with Yadi catching and Motte, who is not slow to the plate.

"He took that steal attempt and made it a real nervous situation. Not a lot of guys that I know would pull the trigger on that because if he get's thrown out, he'll get roasted by some. It was the right thing to do. He picked the right pitch. It got really scary because the manager on the other side had the guts and brains."

Bourn fouled several pitches before flying out to right field to end the game.

Motte said he did not change his strategy with Heyward on third instead of first.

"You can't let the situation dictate the way you are on the mound," Motte said. "You have to go out there and execute. You can't pitch differently. You have to get the guy out. He did a good job of fouling some good pitches off, some which were high, some low, some inside and some outside. He did a really good job. Luckily on the last pitch, I was able to get him to pop up." Comments