The new No. 5 hitter had three hits and two RBI to build a cushion for a bullpen that worked four innings of one-hit ball in a 5-3 victory over the Washington Nationals, giving the Cardinals a doubleheader split on Wednesday night. The 35-year-old Berkman, on a one-year free-agent deal after his worst season, is batting .339 with a team-leading 15 RBI.
"It's a good run for me personally and for the team. It seems like every time I come up there's somebody out there," Berkman said. "I was hopeful something like this would happen, that I'd get off to a good start and have something to build on."
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Jaime Garcia (3-0) allowed one earned run in five-plus innings and Colby Rasmus got his fourth RBI of the day as St. Louis snapped Washington's four-game winning streak in the nightcap. Reserve third baseman Daniel Descalso had three nice defensive plays.
Jason Motte and rookie Eduardo Sanchez combined for nine straight outs and stand-in closer Mitchell Boggs yielded a hit with two outs in the ninth before getting Nix an on infield popup for his first career save.
"We had a slugger at the plate with the tying run at the end of the game," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. "It just wasn't to be."
Jordan Zimmermann (1-3) kept alive the Nationals starters' streak of working at least five innings in every game, but gave up five runs in six innings in the loss. Zimmermann allowed two earned runs or less in each of his first three outings.
Berkman, the reigning NL player of the week, doubled in a run in the fourth and delivered a run-scoring single for the go-ahead hit in the fifth.
Descalso charged to throw out Jerry Hairston Jr. on a grounder in the third and later in the inning snared Danny Espinosa's bouncer down the line and threw him out. He foiled another slow roller on Jayson Werth's run-scoring groundout in the fourth.
The second half of a day-night doubleheader drew a paid attendance of 33,714 and a turnstile count of 28,536, a massive improvement over the opener. A sparse crowd of 8,686 showed up for Game 1 at general admission prices and a sit-anywhere policy to watch the makeup game of a rainout Tuesday night, the franchise's worst crowd since Sept. 14, 1989, when only 1,519 watched a makeup of a tie game called by rain against the Pirates.
Sloppy play by St. Louis helped the Nationals tie it in Game 2.
Left fielder Matt Holliday camped under and dropped Rick Ankiel's fly ball to the warning track for a three-base error in the fourth, leading to an unearned run. Espinosa hit an RBI single in the fifth, then went to third on Garcia's wild pickoff throw before scoring on Ankiel's single.
"I don't want to give him a cookie 3-2," Zimmermann said of the Pujols at-bat. "You try to be extra fine with the pitch and not make a huge mistake.
"The other guys made some clutch hits, it was more the other guys than him."
Pujols hit his fifth homer and Colby Rasmus also went deep in the opener. Rasmus had three RBIs, but also grounded into two of the Cardinals' four double plays. Demoted closer Ryan Franklin retired four straight batters before Nix homered with one out in the eighth on a pitch that caused Franklin to recoil in disgust.
"They hit one ball hard and everything else I made pitches," Franklin said. "You can't keep being negative on yourself, you've got to try to take something positive out of it."
Drew Storen allowed a walk while getting the last four outs for his second save in two chances. Espinosa had three hits, including a pair of infield singles.
The Nationals did the little things like Ankiel going from first to third -- minus a shoe -- and Ian Desmond swiping home on a double steal. They scored the game's first run after Werth's aggressive slide at second prevented a double play.
"We've got to do that. We're not going to be a slugging team," Riggleman said. "We had a little margin because of good baserunning."
Westbrook (1-2) has a 9.82 ERA after four starts, allowing 30 hits in only 18 1/3 innings, and is 7-18 for his career in the first month. He gave up seven runs and seven hits in three innings, his shortest outing since May 2, 2007, when he left a start with Cleveland after 1 1/3 innings with an abdominal injury that landed him on the 15-day disabled list.
"It just wasn't a good day to get behind the hitters, or anytime for that matter, but today was especially bad," Westbrook said. "It just kind of snowballed in that one inning."
John Lannan (2-1) was in and out of trouble in five innings, inducing two double-play balls and holding the Cardinals hitless in seven at-bats with men on base. The only damage came on homers by Pujols and Rasmus.
"I just felt a little off," Lannan said. "Against this kind of lineup, you're kind of lucky going out there and getting through five with the stuff that I had."
Lannan started and ended the third with groundouts, but in between seven straight batters reached, highlighted by Desmond's two-run single.
- Lannan is 5-0 in his last six road starts.
- Franklin has allowed four homers in 6 2/3 innings after giving up seven all last year in 65 innings.
- Ankiel made his first appearance in St. Louis as an opposing player and got a nice ovation before his first at-bat.