video thumbnail

WSH@STL: Berkman brings in Pujols with a single

There may be some louder-than-usual cheers for an opposing player at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday, when the Astros open up a three-game series with the Cardinals. That's because the opener will mark the return of Lance Berkman, who played for the Astros from 1999 to 2010 and was a five-time All-Star.

For his part, Berkman said he's "not crazy about going back in there."

"I feel like I've kind of turned the page, and part of me just wants to be done with it," Berkman said. "But I know I'm going to have to go back in there and face a lot of questions, and things like that. But it boils down to, it's still just a baseball game. Now that I'm on the other side, you've got to try to win and do the best you can for the team you're playing for."

Of course, Astros fans may not be cheering for long should Berkman, now wearing Cardinals red, administer the kind of damage he has against other opponents this season. Berkman is not sure how the fans will receive him.

"I'm trying to look at it from [the point of view that], it's not about me going back in there," Berkman said. "It's about, we're going in there to play them. Clearly, you can see that this is going to be a competitive division. So all these games are important, and you've got to try to win as many as you can."

Playing without the nagging injuries that have plagued him in recent seasons, Berkman is hitting .377, with six home runs and 15 RBIs.

"I just feel healthier than I have in a while," he said. "My legs feel good. My knees aren't bothering me. I think that has a lot to do with having a good base to hit from. Other than that, my swing feels really good. I hope I can keep it going."

He does have fond memories of his time in Houston.

"I think more than anything else, it's the teammates I've had over the years that I've really enjoyed," he said. "I think part of the reason that it's not nearly as difficult for me as it could have been is because most of the guys that I'm close to are gone. It's really not the same place. It's not the same team."

The Astros may have an answer for Berkman and his new teammates in starter Bud Norris, who has owned St. Louis in his career. Norris is 5-1 with a 2.27 ERA in six career starts against the Cardinals, and he has posted quality starts in each of his last two outings.

The Cardinals open the series with Jaime Garcia, who has been able to keep runs off the board while battling with high pitch counts. The lefty, who threw a four-hit shutout in winning his first start of the season over the Padres, has lasted only five innings in each of his last two outings.

Houston: Bourn to steal
Michael Bourn is perfect in stolen-base attempts this season (9-for-9), and he has stolen 17 straight dating back to last year.

Since joining the Astros in 2008, Bourn has posted the highest stolen-base percentage in franchise history, with an 82.7 percent success rate (163-for-197).

Cardinals: Hot bats
Since April 11, the Cardinals lead the Major Leagues with a .343 batting average. St. Louis was first overall in batting (.296) and hits (210) this season, entering Sunday.

Worth nothing
The Astros are in a stretch of six straight series against National League Central opponents (April 22-May 11). ... After Wandy Rodriguez's 2-for-2 performance at the plate against the Brewers on Sunday, Astros pitchers are hitting 15-for-42 (.357) this season. ... Manager Tony La Russa emphasized on Sunday that the condition that has bothered him for the past week or so is the result of a non-contagious virus, and not "pinkeye" or conjunctivitis, as has been reported on and elsewhere. He continues to feel and look better each day. Comments