Eleven days after he became the seventh switch-hitter in Major League history to reach 300 home runs, the Astros first baseman joined the 1,000-RBI club, and in the process, led Houston to a 5-4 win over Kansas City on Thursday at Minute Maid Park.
The 33-year-old slugger became just the third Astros player to reach 1,000 RBIs, driving in career runs 1,000 and 1,001 in the second inning with a two-run homer off Royals starter Brian Bannister. Berkman joins Astros greats Jeff Bagwell (1,529) and Craig Biggio (1,175) as the team's most prolific run producers.
"It's a good number to get to," Berkman said. "Milestones are great, but they can kind of be hanging over your head until you get there. Now we don't have to talk about anymore milestones for awhile, and I can just go out there and play baseball."
Batting from the left side, the Astros slugger hit a 3-2 pitch from Bannister over the left-field wall and into the Crawford Boxes to score Carlos Lee, who doubled the previous at-bat, to give Houston an early 2-1 lead.
Three errors by the Astros' infield allowed the Royals to climb back and take a 4-3 lead, but Berkman once again brought the Minute Maid Park crowd to their feet in the sixth. He gave the Astros the lead for good with his 16th long ball of the season, and second two-run, go-ahead home run of the game against Bannister.
Both of Berkman's home runs came when Houston was trailing by a run, and both came from the left side of the plate.
"I've felt pretty good left-handed for awhile now, and results-wise, this is the best day I've had this year," Berkman said. "I didn't even hit the ball that great. I just took advantage of the Crawford Boxes. The first homer I hit pretty well, the second I didn't hit it quite as good, but I'll take it."
Berkman went 3-for-4 with a season-high four RBIs and a stolen base. His two home runs marked the 24th multi-homer game of his career, and it was the first multi-homer game by an Astros player this season. The last time Berkman went deep twice in a game was April 26, 2008, in St. Louis.
Berkman, hitting .248, has been scuffling this season at the plate in comparison to years past, but manager Cecil Cooper thinks a day such as Thursday could jumpstart his slugger.
"He looked like the Lance Berkman of old," Cooper said. "I think that's what he needs to do, stay to left-center. If he stays in left-center, he's a pretty good player. Hopefully that will kickstart him and get him going."
It's been a rollercoaster week for the Waco, Texas, native.
On Monday, Berkman and his wife, Cara, celebrated the birth of their fourth daughter, Abigail. Two days later, Berkman committed his fourth error of the season, misplaying a ninth-inning ground ball to allow the eventual tying run to reach base in the Astros' loss to the Royals.
"It was good for my psyche after wearing the goat horns last night with that error," Berkman said.
Jason Grodsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less