Lance Berkman has started five of eight games since returning from knee surgery and both the switch-hitting first baseman and manager Mike Matheny indicated that the reduced workload may be a long-term plan.
Not only is keeping the 36-year-old healthy a big consideration, the Cardinals have a logjam of capable hitters and Berkman explained to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch that he’s perfectly fine giving up at-bats to guys like Allen Craig:
We’ve got a surplus of guys now for our lineup spots. Everybody deserves to play, really. You could make the case that everybody but me deserves to play. I’m OK with that. I think the development of young guys is fun to watch and I don’t want to retard AC’s development in any way. He’s certainly earned a place in the lineup.
Throughout his career Berkman has been much better against right-handed pitching, so giving him regular days off versus left-handers would seemingly be the easiest solution for what Matheny called “a lot of juggling going on.”
Berkman has struggled since coming off the disabled list, but overall this season he’s hit .281 with an .847 OPS in 21 games after being one of the NL’s best hitters last year.
Christian Yelich simply can’t be stopped. The Brewers outfielder (and defending NL MVP) entered Saturday’s game with a league-leading 11 home runs after swatting two against the Dodgers on Friday night, then clubbed another two homers in the first six innings of Saturday’s game.
The first came on a 2-1 pitch from the Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu, who lobbed a changeup toward the bottom of the strike zone before it was lifted up and out to center field for a solo home run in the third inning.
While Chase Anderson and Alex Claudio held down the fort against the Dodgers’ lineup, Yelich prepared for his second blast in the sixth inning — this one a 421-foot double-decker on a first-pitch curveball from Ryu.
Yelich’s 13 home runs not only gave him a stronger grip on the league’s leaderboard, but helped him tie yet another franchise record, too. Per MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, he’s tied with Prince Fielder for the most home runs hit by a Brewers player in a single month, and sits just one home run shy of tying Álex Rodríguez’s 2007 record for most home runs hit within any club’s first 22 games of the season.
It may be far too early to predict which players will finish first in the MVP races this fall, but there’s no denying Yelich has already set himself apart from the competition. Through Saturday’s performance, he’s batting .361/.459/.880 with a 1.329 OPS and MLB-best 31 RBI across 98 PA so far.