ST. LOUIS -- Thanks to comments each of them made about how good the Rangers would be this season, Lance Berkman and C.J. Wilson have been tied together for nearly nine months. They finally got a chance Wednesday night to settle the score on the field. As his Cardinals club was set to face Wilson and the Rangers in the World Series, Berkman admitted during Tuesday's workout that he was wrong in saying this past offseason that he felt Texas would be an average team in 2011. But in the Cards' 3-2 victory over the Rangers on Wednesday, Berkman delivered one of the biggest hits in Game 1 of the World Series off -- who else? -- Wilson.
"Certainly that was the wrong opinion," Berkman said. "But it became a bigger story than I ever intended it to be. I certainly didn't intend any ill-will toward the Rangers organization, and on top of that, I wasn't right. So what else can I say?" After his big hit in the fourth inning on Wednesday, Berkman now can say he played a key role in St. Louis getting out to a 1-0 lead in the World Series against a much-better-than-average Texas club. In January, Berkman said he thought the loss of Cliff Lee would be a significant blow to the Rangers this season, and that played a role in his decision to sign with the Cardinals. Wilson laughed it off, and he hoped his club could surprise people if others felt the same way. With the two clubs now meeting in the World Series, those once-forgotten comments have new life. And the connection between the two players grew in the fourth inning of Game 1. With two on and none out, Berkman hit a 1-0 cutter from Wilson down the first-base line, putting the Cards on the board first with a 2-0 lead. Despite the loss, Rangers manager Ron Washington liked what he saw out of Wilson. "I thought C.J. did a good job tonight," Washington said. "Yep, he may have walked some guys and he hit Albert [Pujols], but he was in a 2-2 game and he was battling Carpenter. As far as I'm concerned, it was a pretty good ballgame, and C.J. did his job." Berkman, 35, seemed to be in the twilight of his career last season as he struggled for the Astros and Yankees, batting .248 with just 14 home runs and 58 RBIs. But in his 13th season, Berkman hit .301 with 31 home runs and 94 RBIs for St. Louis, one of the best seasons of his career. "They're in the World Series, and we're in the World Series. I'm happy for him," Wilson said Tuesday. "He stepped up to his end of the bargain, and we stepped up to our end of the bargain, and here we are." Berkman has not been a major factor this postseason, batting .237 with one homer and six RBIs through the first 11 games. But he came through with a pair of hits in Game 1. With his two-run single, Berkman picked up the seventh and eighth World Series RBIs of his career, giving him the most by any hitter in his first five career World Series games, according to Elias Sports Bureau. "You know, I think it's just a matter of having some good games and good fortune," Berkman said. "It's such a small sample that if you do really well, then people want to lodge you as a great clutch player, and if you do bad, they want to say, 'Well, he can't get it done when it counts.'" In addition to delivering on the field, Berkman has been an important leader for the Cardinals. As he sat in the postgame news conference with David Freese and Chris Carpenter on either side of him, Berkman was asked if his leadership just came as a natural part of his personality, or if it was something he made a point to do as a 13-year veteran. "I think just because you see all this gray in my beard, that kind of makes you de facto leader," Berkman said. "Whether you want to be or not, guys are going to kind of look to you because you've been around a while."
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.