Berkman’s game-ending homer gives Astros 3-2 win

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HOUSTON (AP)—Lance Berkman was starting to wonder if he would ever hit a game-ending home run. He finally delivered on Friday night.

The five-time All-Star hit a game-ending solo shot off former teammate Russ Springer to lift the Houston Astros to a 3-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night.

Berkman had 285 career homers before Friday’s game, the most by any active player without one that ended a game. Fireworks exploded as Berkman rounded the bases after No. 286 and he flipped his helmet in the air as he leaped onto home plate, mobbed by his teammates.

“If you think about it, it’s just in passing, like, ‘Oh, that’d be nice to hit one one of these days,”’ said Berkman, who has 27 homers this season, including three last at-bat game winners. “I’m sure if you play long enough, you’re going to.”

Berkman came into the game hitting .333 and has batted no worse than .278 in eight full seasons with the Astros. But even his teammates had started asking Berkman if he would ever get rid of that nagging statistical anomaly.

“Guys have been giving me a hard time all year about not having a walkoff,” he said. “I go around and I’ve got to listen to it every time we go into extra innings. Now, I guess they’ll have to pick something else.”

Springer (2-1) pitched for the Astros from 2004-06. He thought Berkman had just hit a deep fly ball.

“It never crossed my mind it was going out of the park,” Springer said.

Doug Brocail (6-5) pitched a scoreless ninth in relief to earn the win. The Cardinals wasted a stellar start from Kyle Lohse, who allowed two runs on seven hits in eight strong innings.

Lohse had won his first three starts against the Astros this season and St. Louis had won eight of the first 12 meetings between the NL Central rivals.

So Lohse’s performance was no surprise to Berkman.

“I don’t care who the Cardinals run out there,” Berkman said. “They could grab somebody out of the stands and he could throw a good game against us, it seems like. Everybody they run out there every time is tough.”

But David Newhan tied it with a two-run homer off Lohse in the seventh after Lohse had stifled the Astros most of the game.

“I felt like I was in control all night,” said Lohse, who threw 108 pitches in eight innings. “I happened to make one bad pitch and it cost us the lead.”

Astros starter Randy Wolf matched Lohse for six innings, allowing one earned run and three hits. Wolf called this his best start in seven outings since the Astros acquired him from San Diego on July 22.

Neither starter allowed a hit through the first three innings.

With two outs in the fourth, Wolf mishandled Ryan Ludwick’s slow roller to the left of the mound and when he finally picked it up, he overthrew Berkman at first base. Ludwick went to second and Wolf was charged with two errors on the play.

“I was telling the guys, ‘I remember the day when I was able to hit and field my position, so I don’t know what’s going on,”’ Wolf said.

Wolf walked Troy Glaus before Yadier Molina blooped an RBI double down the right-field line to make it 1-0.

Darin Erstad led off the Houston fourth with the Astros’ first hit, a single to center. The Astros announced during the game that Erstad had signed a one-year, $1.75 million contract extension.

Nick Stavinoha led off the sixth with a double down the right-field line. He advanced on Albert Pujols’ groundout and scored on Ludwick’s broken-bat flyout to put the Cardinals up 2-0.

Wolf got out of the sixth, but Chris Sampson relieved him for the seventh and set down the Cardinals in order.

Lohse retired the first two batters in the Houston seventh before Hunter Pence beat out an infield grounder that Glaus bobbled. Newhan then hooked a homer around the right-field foul pole, his second home run of the season.

The Astros turned their third double play of the game in the ninth to preserve the 2-2 tie.

Instant replay was available to umpires at Minute Maid Park for the first time on Friday and Glaus’ fly ball down the left-field line in the second inning could’ve warranted a look. But third-base umpire Marvin Hudson saw it all the way and emphatically signaled the ball foul when it landed in the seats, a few feet outside the pole.

Notes

The Cardinals were held below 10 hits for the fourth time in their last 13 games. … The Astros lead the NL with 41 homers in August. … The Astros have won 11 of their last 14 home games.

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