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Sunday, August 8, 2010
Updated: August 9, 11:20 AM ET
Bad-luck Berkman drives away boos

By Andrew Marchand
ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Lance Berkman could see the storm swirling into something ugly. In one week with the New York Yankees, it seemed the only thing he had hit was Alex Rodriguez. That Saturday batting-practice shot sent A-Rod sprawling around as if he were on fire and raised huge concerns.

Rodriguez's bruised shin forced him to miss Saturday's game, but the apologetic Berkman was relieved to see Rodriguez in the lineup on Sunday.

"I'm glad it wasn't a lasting thing that I would get branded with as being some sort of a Benedict Arnold to the organization," Berkman said.

On Sunday night, Berkman was branded as something else for the first time as a Yankee -- a productive player.

Lance Berkman
Lance Berkman hopes his three-hit night is worth a break from boos. "Maybe a game or two," he said.

He finally started hitting and, for the moment, stopped the boos at Yankee Stadium. That is what happens when you have three hits -- which is one more than he had his entire first week in pinstripes -- including two doubles and you score a couple of runs in a 7-2 win over the Red Sox.

Berkman's average jumped from .091 to a robust .241 in one night. By the time he stepped to the plate in the seventh, with the three hits in his back pocket, Berkman heard cheers from the crowd. Even after he struck out, no one got on his case.

"I don't know if they were cheering, but at least they weren't booing," Berkman, 34, said. "I struck out in my last at-bat and I didn't have boos raining down so maybe I bought just a little bit of time, maybe a game or two."

After Sunday night's game, Berkman caught a ride with his Houston buddy, Andy Pettitte. With their families both returning to Texas, Berkman is crashing at Pettitte's house. Berkman's leaned on Pettitte this first week, getting advice on how to fit in.

"We have talked so much I can't even talk about it," Pettitte said. "We have talked a ton."

Pettitte said the first thing he told Berkman to do is relax. Pettitte, who played with Berkman with the Astros, said that he thinks Berkman is calm now.

"He is settled in," Pettitte said. "The first three or four days were a whirlwind, but now he is having good at-bats, I think. He is not swinging at a bunch of balls in the dirt. It's going to be good. I'm the ultimate optimistic person and he's got a little bit of pessimism. I just try to tell him to think positive. It is going to work out. It is going to happen for him."

Berkman entered Sunday with two hits, which excludes hitting A-Rod in batting practice Saturday. Beside the shot that bounced Rodriguez out of the lineup on Saturday, Berkman had failed to hit many balls hard. That changed under the Sunday night lights.

In the second, Berkman started to right himself. He doubled and scored the first Yankees run. In the fifth, he nailed his second double and came around to score again. In between, he added an infield single.

Berkman handled Saturday like a veteran, answering the questions and taking responsibility even though he knew the A-Rod episode wasn't really his fault.

"I felt terrible about it, but I can't control the ball once it leaves my bat," Berkman said. "I wish I could because then I'd steer me a few more hits in there."

The bigger issue that could have kept Berkman pessimistic was his lack of hitting, combined with the fans becoming more annoyed.

"No matter how much success you have had in the game, no one likes to be booed," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You can be the greatest player ever to play the game and you don't want to be booed."

Berkman stopped the boos on Sunday night, yet he knows that one good game is not a lifetime pass.

"I've got the shovel and I'm down in there in the hole and I'm trying to dig out," Berkman said.

Andrew Marchand covers baseball for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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