"From Day 1, all month long, he's been what he is," La Russa said. "He is a really tough out. He's good from both sides of the plate."Berkman brought both leadership and a sense of humor to the St. Louis clubhouse. "I'm happy for him," third baseman David Freese said. "Things didn't go for him like he wanted last year. I know he's got a real chip on his shoulder. He's got something to prove. I'm ecstatic for him." Hitting behind Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday certainly improved Berkman's production. "You don't want to get left behind those guys," Berkman said. "They're two of the best hitters in the game. You want to try to hang with them as long as you can. It puts pitchers on the defensive. It's a lot easier to hit in a lineup where guys are making things happen." Berkman has been pretty good making things happen for St. Louis. He raised his average Thursday to .410. "You try to protect it, and extend it, and keep pushing," he said. "Don't take it for granted, just try to ride it out. It can't last forever. You look at it as, 'I'm going to extend it today.'" "The guy's good, man," said Houston third baseman Chris Johnson. "He's locked in right now, so it's tough that we're playing them when he's this hot. There's not many people getting him out right now." Berkman received a standing ovation before his first at-bat Tuesday night. There were a few boos Thursday that turned to cheers for him near the end of the game. "I got to experience a roller coaster," he said. "They loved me, then they hated me." He left a winner, this time.
Gene Duffey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.