Lance Berkman leaves game with serious-looking knee injury

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The Cardinals are suddenly taking punches.

First baseman Lance Berkman had to be helped off the field Saturday night at Dodger Stadium after losing his balance while stretching for a throw from shortstop Rafael Furcal. It appeared that his right knee buckled under him, and he was clearly in pain as he carefully made his way into the dugout aided by trainer Chris Conroy and manager Mike Matheny.

Berkman has undergone four different knee procedures — two to each knee — in his major league career, but he wasn’t able to make a quick diagnosis of this particular injury. It felt different than the kind of issues he’s dealt with in the past.

“It doesn’t feel right,” Berkman told reporters, including MLB.com’s Jen Langosch. “I wish I knew more than that. … I didn’t feel a pop. [The joint] just kind of slid on me a little bit. That’s the best way I can describe it.”

The Cardinals are concerned enough about his status that they removed first base prospect Matt Adams in the fifth inning of Triple-A Memphis’ game (and presumably told him to get on the next flight to Los Angeles). Adams, a promising 23-year-old, was batting .340/.375/.603 with nine home runs in 37 games this year at the Triple-A level. He slugged 32 home runs in 115 games last season at Double-A Springfield.

St. Louis has lost three straight games. Sunday’s series finale with the Dodgers will be broadcast on ESPN.

James Paxton has a fantastic new nickname

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James Paxton of the Mariners is 3-0 with a 1.39 ERA, 39 strikeouts and only six walks in 32.1 innings of work over five starts. Last night he shut the Tigers down, tossing seven shutout innings, striking out nine and allowing only four hits. With Felix Hernandez looking less than king-like lately, Paxton is asserting himself as the new ace of the Seattle staff.

And now the tall Canadian native has a nickname to match his ace-like status:

“Pax was really outstanding and we certainly needed it,” manager Scott Servais said of the Canadian southpaw. “Big Maple is what he was nicknamed tonight and I kind of like that. He was awesome.”

“Big Maple” is a fantastic nickname. That’s the sort of nickname guys used to get back when nicknames were great. Before managers just put “y” at the end of dudes’ names and before the “First Initial-First Three Letters of The Last Name” convention took hold in the wake of A-Rod.

“Big Maple.” That makes me smile. I’m gonna be smiling all dang day because of that.

The Rays gave Seth Smith a little league homer last night

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I mentioned this in the recaps this morning, but I think it deserves it’s own special place. Get what went down in the second inning of last night’s Rays-O’s game:

Ryan Flaherty was on first with Seth Smith up to bat. Smith hit a single to center. Flaherty, who was running with the pitch, was making for third base. All-world defender Kevin Kiermaier tried to gun him down but threw wildly to third, causing Flaherty to break for home.

Pitcher Alex Cobb had the play backed up, however! He got the ball near the dugout. Flaherty scampered back to third and Cobb tried to throw him out. The ball hit Flaherty’s helmet, richocheting into left field, allowing both Flaherty and Smith — who had stopped at first and then stopped at second, like a kid at tee ball or something — to come around and score.

Watch:

 

I still think the Rays walking home the winning run on four pitches in the 11th inning was worse, but this looked worse.

Oh well: the Rays get the day off today and tomorrow, of course, is another day.