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Berkman has played just 13 games this season, also missing significant time with a pulled left calf muscle. He said he’s had torn cartilage in the knee since spring training but it wasn’t enough to affect his play.

He was batting .333 with a home run and four RBIs.

Last season, Berkman hit .301 with 31 homers and 94 RBIs in 145 games to help the Cardinals win the World Series. He had a .412 on-base percentage and a .547 slugging percentage, both of which ranked among the NL leaders.

His injury is a major blow to the middle of the lineup for the slumping Cardinals, who had dropped four straight and eight of 10. St. Louis also lost longtime slugger Albert Pujols in the offseason when he signed a $240 million, 10-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels.

Still, the Cardinals began the day with a half-game lead in the NL Central.

Rookie Matt Adams, the franchise’s minor league player of the year in 2011, and Matt Carpenter will see time at first base for now and utility man Allen Craig could also man that position when he returns from a hamstring injury sustained last week that landed him on the disabled list. Adams, recalled from Triple-A Memphis when Berkman was hurt, started for the second straight game Monday after getting two hits in his major league debut.

Carpenter was batting .280 with three homers and 19 RBIs in 37 games.

“We’ll be feeling our way through it. We brought Matt Adams here to play, so we’ll get a good look at him,” manager Mike Matheny said.