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06/11/11 1:43 AM ET

La Russa focused on field during 5,000th game

MILWAUKEE -- Cardinals manager Tony La Russa sat at his desk, glasses low on his nose, and scribbled notes as he went through the lineup card.

La Russa has filled out thousands of lineup cards during his tenure in the Major Leagues, and Friday's 8-0 loss marked the 5,000th game he's managed. The 66-year-old managed for the White Sox and A's before coming to St. Louis in 1996, and Friday night's milestone struck a chord with someone who played for and coached with La Russa -- Mark McGwire.

"The guy -- I'm biased -- but I don't think there's anybody better in the game that knows how to manage, knows how to take care of his players, knows how to get his players ready, knows how to take guys that play different positions and turn them into other position players, knows how to manage a bullpen," McGwire said. "It's just awesome. I mean, his record speaks for itself."

La Russa did not want the focus to be on him Friday night, as he sits at No. 2 all-time for most games managed in the big leagues, behind Connie Mack's 7,755, and instead wanted his team to continue to practice what he preaches. The Cardinals lead the Brewers by 1 1/2 games in the NL Central, and keeping distractions to a minimum is part of the manager's business-like approach that McGwire experienced.

"The important thing is we work hard at not being distracted. All our concentration should be on this series against Milwaukee, and so I don't want to distract us," La Russa said.

The manager said his 5,000th game was a testament to all of the organizations he's worked for, and Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke didn't sidestep La Russa's milestone either. Roenicke, 54, coached his 64th career Major League game Friday night and said he spoke with his staff about La Russa's longevity.

"We were talking about it inside, and 5,000 is unbelievable as a manager," Roenicke said. "He's not just hanging around, he's winning, and he has with different organizations. It's pretty incredible."

One of the things that has surprised McGwire the most during the time he's spent around La Russa is the way the manager is able to flip a switch between his business demeanor and his light-hearted side.

"He's serious between the lines and it's like, why would you want anything to get in your way?" McGwire said. "It's like when you're a player, it's almost like tunnel vision, but away from the park, he's as fun as can be. We have great times, great talks over a glass of wine, and I eat the red meat and he's a vegetarian, but he's just a really good guy."

Berkman on another tear at the plate

MILWAUKEE -- Cardinals outfielder Lance Berkman entered Friday's game with a home run in each of his past three games. Berkman had his way against the Astros, as he went 4-for-11 with five RBIs in the series, and Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he's come to expect those types of performances from the slugger.

"Well, that's the kind of career he's had," La Russa said. "He's just been outstanding when he's healthy. When he has both his legs under him and he's not sore he can hit the ball pretty well."

Berkman's ability to hit -- .331 with 45 RBIs this season -- is perhaps garnering more attention than the numbers he turned in during his time with the Astros, Cardinals batting coach Mark McGwire said.

McGwire said Berkman's old-school approach at the plate makes him a threat for opposing pitchers, and since he's been in the big leagues since 1999, there's not much Berkman hasn't seen.

"He knows how they're going to try to pitch him, he tries to gets the bat in the zone, keep it in there and extend through it, and he's a really, really good hitter," McGwire said. "If you look at his numbers, his numbers are unbelievable. He's gone through his career really unnoticed because he played with [Jeff] Bagwell and [Craig] Biggio, but his numbers are just massive."

Craig hopes to return to lineup this weekend

MILWAUKEE -- Cardinals left fielder Allen Craig continued to test his injured right knee before Friday's game in the hopes that he will return at some point during the series against the Brewers.

Craig is listed as day to day and said Friday was the best his knee felt since he ran into a railing in right field on a foul ball hit by Clint Barmes in the first inning of Tuesday's game. He continues to work on extending his knee, and said while structurally everything feels fine, the swelling has been the biggest hurdle.

"It's just swollen, and it doesn't want to bend like it should," he said. "I'm just kind of forcing it through it and making it bend, and it's responding pretty good. I don't foresee being out much longer. If I wake up tomorrow and it feels better, I might try and test it out."

Keeping the National League Central race in mind is something Craig said he thought about while he sat in front of his locker with his banged-up knee propped up on a chair next to him.

"I think it's definitely a big series when the competition is in front of you and they're right behind us in the standings, so it's kind of hard to avoid the fact that it's a big series," he said.

Worth noting

Right-hander Mitchell Boggs was recalled from Memphis and pitcher Lance Lynn was sent to the Triple-A club. Lynn recorded his first Major League win Thursday night when he pitched five innings and surrendered one earned run on six hits. Manager Tony La Russa said Boggs provides the team with a fresh arm for the next few days, and that it will see where it goes from there. ... Right-hander Kyle McClellan, who is on the 15-day DL, was scheduled to throw bullpen sessions Friday and Sunday.

Audrey Snyder is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.