Right off the bat, Berkman tags Doc with HR

Right off the bat, Berkman tags Doc with HR

PHILADELPHIA -- By no means was the celebration in the Cardinals' dugout chaotic on Saturday after Lance Berkman drilled a three-run home run off the façade of the second deck in right field minutes into Game 1 of the National League Division Series.

No, the tenor was more semi-restrained enthusiasm with a tinge of cautious optimism.

"When he hit that, I was thinking that this was going to be a good game," said Cards shortstop Rafael Furcal, who led off the game with a single.

"But you also know that with a team like the Phillies, a three-run lead is really nothing."

Berkman's eighth postseason home run -- he hit six with the Astros and then one with the Yankees last year -- essentially hushed a sold-out crowd of 46,480 at Citizens Bank Park, a temporarily deflating moment that gave St. Louis hope.

That hope, of course, was later dashed when the Phils used two homers of their own -- by Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez -- in a five-run sixth inning that sent Philadelphia to an 11-6 victory in Game 1.

But for a brief moment, Berkman, in his first season with the Cardinals, managed to do something only a handful of hitters did in 2011 -- take Halladay deep. The right-handed ace allowed only 10 home runs during the regular season.

Oddly enough, one of those was to Berkman in the Cards' 4-3 win on Sept. 19 in a game played in Philly, also in the first inning and -- if you could believe this -- also in a game when St. Louis had Game 1 starter Kyle Lohse going on the mound.

Did Berkman consider that unique twist on Saturday?

"Sure, I think about it," Berkman said. "I'm proud of it. It's a feather in your cap. But I don't think it had any bearing on the game."

The home run came on a sinker that Halladay wanted to bury in the strike zone. Instead, he pulled the pitch, sending it "thigh high ... about as bad as you can put it," Halladay lamented afterwards.

"I couldn't think of a worse start, really, putting your team in a hole like that," Halladay said. "Sometimes you get in those situations and you try to do too much, and it gets worse."

Furcal started the inning with a single and then stole second base. After Halladay struck out Allen Craig, the Phillies were careful not to give Albert Pujols too much to hit with first base open. Pujols walked on four pitches to bring up Berkman.

"You want to get off to a quick start, and if you have an opportunity to get to a guy like Roy, it's best to do it early," Berkman said.

When the Cardinals signed Berkman in December to a one-year, $8 million contract to play in the outfield, the move was panned by some critics who didn't see a fit for the 35-year-old anywhere besides first base.

But Berkman and Pujols formed a dangerous tandem in the middle of the Redbirds' order this season, as Berkman hit .301 with 31 home runs and 94 RBIs.

Those same critics who scoffed at the deal last offseason probably had no issue with the one-year, $12 million extension the Cards gave Berkman last month.

Berkman didn't just provide the biggest hit of the night for the Cardinals. He also apparently was a hit with the Phils fans sitting in the left-field stands, as he was essentially serenaded later in the game.

"All they were saying was, 'Berkman,'" he said. "So I was like, 'OK, you guys can read. That's great.'"

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.