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Cardinals sweep Orioles, move into tie for first place
BALTIMORE -- Playing in a ballpark known as a haven for hitters, Lance Berkman hit a couple of drives that would have cleared the wall in just about any stadium in the country.
Berkman had his 29th career two-homer game, Jon Jay hit a three-run shot, and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Baltimore Orioles 9-6 on Thursday night to complete a three-game sweep.
The Cardinals never trailed in the series and outscored Baltimore 20-9. In the finale, St. Louis built an 8-0 lead in the fourth inning and coasted to its fourth win in nine games since slugger Albert Pujols went on the disabled list with a fractured wrist.
Berkman hit a two-run drive in the second inning measured at 422 feet and led off the seventh with a clout that traveled an estimated 444 feet.
"It just feels good," he said with a laugh. "A lot of times, even when you hit a home run, you don't quite catch all of it. But I got most of both of those balls."
The last one easily cleared the 25-foot scoreboard in right field and scattered the crowd on Eutaw Street.
It was his fourth multihomer game of the season, and marked the second time in 2011 that he homered from both sides of the plate.
"I'm better right-handed than I've been in a couple of years," Berkman said, "I don't know if there's anything more to it than that."
With Berkman leading the way, the Cardinals righted themselves after being swept at home by Toronto, claiming a share of first place with the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central.
"We've got some hot bats right now," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "Lance had a big game. This game over here is so tough because you have the American League rules and the ballpark. But we were swinging tonight."
The Cardinals did most of their damage against Brian Matusz (1-4), who was optioned to Class AAA Norfolk after the game. Matusz yielded a career-high eight runs and nine hits in 3 1/3 innings, lost his fourth straight start and departed with an 8.77 ERA.
The left-hander started six games since coming off the disabled list with a rib injury and still hasn't regained the velocity he displayed in 2010. His fastball reached 90 mph at least once in this outing, but most of the time it was in the 86-88 range.
"I am not getting it done up here. It's not fair for the team, every fifth day I go out there and make starts like this," Matusz said.
Nolan Reimold homered and had four RBIs and Mark Reynolds also connected for the Orioles, who fell a season-worst eight games under .500 (35-43).
Baltimore's Nick Markakis extended his career-high hitting streak to 19 games and Derrek Lee got his 1,900th career hit, a single in the second inning. He's the 315th player to accomplish the feat, according to the Orioles.
Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia (7-3) gave up five runs, 10 hits and a walk in 5 1/3 innings. It was only the second time in 17 starts this season that the left-hander allowed more than three earned runs.
"I made a couple of mistakes and I paid for it," Garcia said. "It was great that we scored some runs so that made it easier for me, because they have a good lineup."
Fernando Salas worked the ninth to earn his 13th save and conclude the Cardinals' first sweep on the road this season.
For a third straight game, St. Louis took the lead for good in the second inning. David Freese singled, took second on a walk to Yadier Molina and scored on a single by Tony Cruz. Skip Schumaker followed with a sacrifice fly.
The Cardinals made it 4-0 in the third when Matt Holliday doubled and Berkman drove a 1-2 pitch into the seats in left.
In the fourth, Ryan Theriot singled in a run and Jay hit his sixth homer with two aboard to chase Matusz, who was booed by many in the crowd of 28,340.
Reimold hit a three-run homer in the fourth and Reynolds ended Garcia's night with a two-run drive in the sixth.
Berkman made it 9-5 with his 20th home run of the season, off Alfredo Simon, and Reimold singled in a run in the eighth.
St. Louis closes interleague play with a three-game series at the Rays this weekend.