For 37 games, New York Yankee fans have not seen the real Lance Berkman.
On Thursday night, in the Yankees 5-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, pinstripe followers finally saw what many Houston Astros' fans witnessed for 12 seasons -- a funky, yet smooth, left-handed swing that launches stitched leather through night air and into outfield bullpens.
In the top of the fifth inning with New York trailing 1-0, Berkman tied the game by rocketing a solo homer to left-center field.
In the top half of the seventh with the game knotted at 2-2, the Big Puma smashed a go-ahead, run-scoring double that scored catcher Jorge Posada. Later in the inning, Berkman scored after captain Derek Jeter hit a run-scoring single that gave the Yankees a 4-2 advantage and helped the Bronx Bombers gain a 2-0 series lead.
"It's great," Berkman said to TBS on-field reporter Craig Sager about the feeling of hitting his seventh postseason home run. "That's why I decided to come over here was to get the opportunity to play in games like this. To be back and have a chance to win a World Series. You know, it's been great and a lot of fun. This is a great month of the year. October baseball is good as it gets. I'm glad to contribute tonight and hopefully keep it rolling."
When Berkman is on -- and many know he hasn't been for much of this season or last -- he's extremely fun to watch. Pouncing on an outside fastball, one similar to what Carl Pavano threw to him in the fifth inning on Thursday, and uncorking a moon-shot into the outfield seats was the norm in Houston. It happened 326 times.
That same lefty swing produced a Houston-franchise best .959 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage). Better than Astros legend Jeff Bagwell.
During his 12-year tenure in Houston, Berkman hit six postseason home runs and along with Andy Pettitte helped the Astros win their first playoff series (2004) and reach the World Series (2005).
But the New York faithful haven't seen that Berkman. They've seen an older, less polished, injured version of Berkman who posted just one homer and a .255 batting average as a Yankee.
However, for at least one night, Yankee nation got to see how great Berkman was and still can be. It's also a refreshing reminder that even Fat Elvis -- another Berkman nickname in Houston -- can entertain an audience and produce a few good shows in the twilight of his career.