Carpenter Back at Lead-Off


For the first time this season, Matt Carpenter will bat lead-off for the St. Louis Cardinals as Dexter Fowler slides down to fifth in the lineup.

“Just getting guys going, that’s all,” commented Mike Matheny. But part of the decision to change things up is due to necessity–Tommy Pham is still dealing with a groin issue.

“At least today,” said Matheny. “It’s still possible to bring him off the bench. We’ll get updates as the game goes.”

As for some of the other lineup decisions, the questions are more complicated or at least generate more speculation in the case of Carpenter at the top and Fowler moving down.

“There’s a pause before we move anybody anywhere,” said Matheny. “It’s not on a whim. It’s something that we think through–what might happen if we do this, how does that play with everybody else in the lineup, how does it play with their psyche and their confidence, and all those things are part of the conversation. Just try to do things, once again, we feel are going to give our team the best chance.”

In his career, Matt Carpenter has hit .291 (638-2191) with a .391 on-base when slotted as the lead-off hitter. He’s hit .211 (54-256) when at the third spot.

“And he’s gonna get all mad too,” acknowledged Matheny. “He’s going to start hitting–which he has been hitting, right? He’s been hitting line drives all over the place and this is just going to reinforce the fact that he was ready to take off and didn’t do it in the third spot and will in the one spot. But like I said, we’ve just got to try and figure out–listen, we’ve been winning some games but how can we get our guys going to where our offense is really clicking?

“Sometimes you just, we’ve gone a number of games here just trying to get some guys going in the same spot. Sometimes when it happens, you do something different–whether it’s the rest, whether it’s the work, whether it’s the position because sometimes the psychology of the game is real. Analytics don’t like it, but it’s real so we have to pay attention to it.”

Entering today, Fowler is hitless in his last 13 at-bats and batting .176. Carpenter is at .177–although his 10 RBIs are tied for the fourth most amongst third spot hitters in the National League.

A text message was sent to the team last night with today’s lineup. Will there be follow-up conversation to explain that this is not a whim but a plan to help get the offense going?

“Who do I have to remind that it’s not a whim–if we’re doing anything on a whim around here, shame on us,” said Matheny. “We’ve never made a decision around here on a whim. We talk with guys to the point of over-communicating but there’s times too where we just make a decision, ‘hey, this is what we’ve got, let’s roll’. It’s a mixture of both, depending on the timing and how much communication has been done on the front side. There’s times we’ve got a decision to make and we’re going to make a decision we think that’s best for the club, you guys hopefully by now realize we’re just trying to do what’s best for this team. We respect them. We respect the game, but first and foremost we’ve got to do something that’s going to give our team the best chance to win.”

Also of note is Yadier Molina batting second, but Matheny shared he does not see that as a long-term spot as the preference is to take advantage of the catcher’s production in the 5th-6th spot.

photo credit: Jasen Vinlove, Wendell Cruz, David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

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