One postseason home run wasn't enough to earn Chris Burke a spot in the Houston starting lineup. Undeterred, he hit a home run in his next postseason at-bat -- a pinch-hitting appearance in Wednesday's Game 1 -- and finally Astros Manager Phil Garner had to make a place for him.
This, after Burke's game-winning home run in the 18th inning of Sunday's marathon Game 4 of the National League Division Series had earned him nationwide acclaim, numerous television appearances and adulation from his teammates.
Wednesday, Burke pinch-hit. But Thursday, Burke started in left field and was batting sixth.
"Fortunately, Phil has found ways to get me into the lineup," Burke said.
With St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Mark Mulder looking strong, Burke hit a booming triple in the second inning and scored one of the only two runs Mulder would allow in Houston's 4-1 win.
The moment the ball came off Burke's bat he was thinking triple. The ball hit the wall on a bounce before Cardinals center fielder Jim Edmonds chased it down and delivered a strong throw to second baseman Mark Grudzielanek, who rushed a throw to third baseman Abraham Nunez. Burke barely snuck into third base, despite Nunez's pleas to third base umpire Larry Poncino.
"For me in the past, when I'm thinking about legging out a triple, I base it on the outfielder," Burke said. "I feel I beat Edmonds by a step. They made a great relay to make it close."
Burke scored on a passed ball and for the first time in this postseason, the Cardinals trailed.
"Chris Burke has been Mr. October," Astros catcher Brad Ausmus said. "His numbers speak for themselves. In order for us to win, we need contributions from every part of the order."
In the eighth inning, with the Astros leading by just one run, Burke singled home Lance Berkman to provide a key insurance run. Burke then scored Houston's fourth run on Adam Everett's triple.
"It's been a lot of phone calls recently and obviously it's been fun," Burke said.
Burke began the season as a utility infielder, struggled for most of the season, hitting just .248 in the regular season, and was sent to the minors. Somehow he has found his niche in the playoffs.
"I would have never guessed the twists and turns this year has taken," Burke said.
In the seventh inning, playing defense, Burke experienced another of those twists. With one out and the Astros leading by one run, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina hit a deep fly ball to left field that went over Burke's head for a double. Burke, playing out of position, had a bad jump on the ball and did not even come close to making a play.
"Obviously, it still feels foreign to me when I put that big glove on and run 300 feet from home plate," Burke said. "One false step ended up being the difference."
But Houston starter Roy Oswalt got the final two outs of the inning.
This October, it seems, even Burke's false steps don't lead to a fall.