CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 14: Rafael Furcal #15 of the St. Louis Cardinals steals second base in the first inning of the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on July 14, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Cardinals Vs. Reds: St. Louis Gets Swept With Loss On Sunday Night

St. Louis can't escape Cincinnati without being swept at the hands of the Reds.

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Lance Berkman Returns From Injury With Strikeout In Cardinals Loss Saturday

The St. Louis Cardinals saw Lance Berkman return from injury Saturday, but their corner-slugger logjam meant their best hitter from 2011 found himself coming of the bench in his first game back from an injury that some thought would lead to the end of his career. Berkman replaced Kyle Lohse as a pinch-hitter in Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds, striking out in the seventh inning with runners on second and third and nobody out.

It turned out to be the beginning of the end for the Cardinals, who managed to get only one run out of that situation and couldn't pull things together in extra innings. Berkman, coming off the best season of his career by OPS+, has to play, but with Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, and Allen Craig all in the middle of huge season he's likely to be little more than a platoon bat and a pinch hitter for a while--in short, the role the Cardinals originally envisioned for Allen Craig.

Berkman hadn't appeared for the Cardinals since May 19, when he went 0-1 before leaving the game in the third inning of a 6-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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Lance Berkman Injury Update: Cardinals Slugger Poised For Saturday Return

The St. Louis Cardinals released some positive news on Friday, reporting that 1B Lance Berkman should be ready to return as soon as Saturday against the Cincinnati Reds. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Berkman had "checked all the boxes" with respect to his physical state and now the manage just needs Berkman's okay:

"Ultimately, it's usually the player's call, especially a player with a lot of tenure," Matheny said.

Berkman was a key component to the Cardinals' 2011 World Series run, hitting 31 homers with an impressive .301/.412/.571 slash. So far in the 2012 season, however, injuries have limited him to just 49 plate appearances and a single home run.

When Berkman returns, the team figures to slot 1B Allen Craig back into his super utility role.

For updates, stay tuned to SB Nation St. Louis. For more coverage of this series, visit St. Louis Cardinals blog Viva El Birdos and Reds blog Red Reporter. For additional baseball coverage, check out Baseball Nation and MLB Daily Dish.

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