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Lance Berkman sidelined with slight strain of right rotator cuff

St. Louis Cardinals v Cincinnati Reds

CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 17: Lance Berkman #12 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a home run in the second inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on July 17, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Reds won 3-1. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

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The Cardinals are without one of their most important bats tonight as they continue to duke it out in the ultra-competitive National League Central.

B.J. Rains of FOX Sports Midwest reports that Lance Berkman will sit out tonight’s series opener against the Astros after he suffered a slight strain of his right rotator cuff on his final swing during Sunday’s game against the Pirates.

“Just when I took that last swing,” Berkman said. “Clearly there was something funny because the ball went one way and the shortstop ran up the middle. It was just strange.

“It hurt me when I got to first. Right when I did it, I didn’t feel anything that I can remember. It happened so fast, but I got down to first base and I was like, ‘My goodness’. It just didn’t feel good.”

While Berkman’s absence tonight ends a streak of 40 consecutive games played dating back to June 7, the good news is that he doesn’t anticipate missing more than “a day or two.”

Berkman, who signed a one-year, $8 million contract over the winter, is batting .288/.400/.599 with a .999 OPS in 365 plate appearances this season. He leads the National League with 27 home runs and ranks fourth with 69 RBI.