Lance Berkman returns to Houston with eight hits and seven RBIs in three games

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After playing 11 seasons with the Astros as one of the best players in franchise history Lance Berkman returned to Houston for the first time and was met by some pretty harsh criticism from local announcer Milo Hamilton.

Berkman handled things about as well as possible in responding to the criticism and then responded with his bat by collecting eight hits and seven RBIs in three games against the Astros, including a pair of homers last night.

Here’s what he said after the game:

I don’t think I could have asked for a better return to Minute Maid. It’s not something like I came in here with a vendetta, or something to prove. I just wanted to play well in front of my family. I can’t imagine I’ll ever come into this building and not think about 11 years of great memories. One series doesn’t put that to bed. It will always be a special place to me.

Berkman is now hitting .410 with with eight homers, eight doubles, and a 1.263 OPS through 22 games for the Cardinals, leading the league in slugging percentage and OPS while ranking second in batting average, homers, and RBIs.

I liked the Cardinals’ decision to sign Berkman to a one-year, $8 million deal, but my question was whether he’d bounce back enough offensively from a career-worst season to make up for some ugly defense. His glove in right field has been every bit as shaky as expected, but so far at least the 35-year-old Berkman is hot enough at the plate that no one cares.

Giants place Hunter Pence on 10-day disabled list with right thumb sprain

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The Giants placed outfielder Hunter Pence on the 10-day disabled list with a right thumb sprain, per an official announcement on Friday. Pence initially sustained the injury during the club’s home opener on April 3, when he dove to intercept a line drive double from Robinson Cano and jammed his thumb. Weeks of playing through the pain hasn’t worked, so he’ll take a breather while the Giants give outfielder Mac Williamson a chance to start in left after getting called up from Triple-A Fresno.

Pence, 35, wouldn’t pin his recent struggles on his injury, but it’s clear that he’s having difficulty finding his footing this year. He slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 through 61 plate appearances in 2018, collecting just one extra-base hit and two walks during the Giants’ dismal 7-11 stretch. While it’s far too early in the season to make any final judgments, it doesn’t look like the veteran outfielder will be replicating the .275+ average, 4.0+ fWAR totals of years past (at least, not anytime soon).

Williamson, meanwhile, has gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A. Prior to his call-up this weekend, the 27-year-old batted an incredible .487/.600/1.026 with six home runs and a 1.626 OPS through his first 50 PA. A hot Triple-A bat doesn’t always survive the transition to the majors, but the Giants will use all the help they can get — especially as they take on the AL West-leading Angels this weekend.