Simply put, Matt Carpenter had a historic night for the St. Louis Cardinals. The third baseman became the first player in franchise history to record five hits, score five runs, and hit two home runs in the same game as helped the Cardinals to an 11-2 victory over Cleveland on Tuesday night.
“It’s awesome,” said Carpenter. “Especially with the amount of games that have been played in this uniform and the kind of history that we have here in this organization, the players that have come through, any time you have something like that it’s pretty neat.”
After leading off the game with a home run, Carpenter mixed in a pair of singles and double before closing things out with another solo blast in the 8th inning. The last home run put him in the record books, but he also finished only a triple away from hitting for the cycle.
“Yeah, I mean that’s about the only time in your life that you’ll wish that the ball would stay in the park,” smiled Carpenter. “Honestly, I’ve been fooled here before. Off the bat, I thought it was gone but I’ve been fooled here plenty of times so I was running hard, thought maybe it’d hit off the top of the wall. But you’re never mad about a home run.”
The Cardinals offense knocked Indians starter Corey Kluber out of the game after just 1.2 innings. That’s the same Kluber who has won a Cy Young Award and three years ago set a Cleveland record by striking out 18 Cardinals.
“He’s one of the best in the game,” said Carpenter. “That’s just an outstanding job by our team. Really tough at-bats from top to bottom against arguably one of the best guys, if not the best guy in the American League. Really proud of the way we played tonight. Carlos, after the shaky 1st inning, really settled down and threw the ball really well. It was good to see him command the strike zone like we know he’s capable of and then the bullpen came in–just a good team win.”
As for Carpenter, he’s been red hot at the plate of late–collecting nine hits in his last 12 at-bats. But the progress has been steady for over a month.
Going back to May 16th, Carpenter was hitting .140. After this last game, his season average has climbed to .259.
“I know that I had a tough month, but I know that that month did not define who I was or what kind of season that I’m going to have,” said Carpenter. “We play a long, long, long season. I knew that I was healthy. I knew that that I physically could do what I wanted to do and I knew over the course of 162 games I’d be happy with what I could put together and I’m starting to do that.”
Before the game, Mike Matheny mentioned that Carpenter’s defense had been aided by his shoulder feeling better. How does that translate to his swing?
“I don’t feel like I’m inhibited like I was last year,” said Carpenter. “I felt like I could not do what I needed to do. I don’t feel that anymore. I don’t know if it’s helped me, I think it’s just made me get back to what I used to be able to do and just feel like I can take swings without having issues with it.”
So has shoulder continued to feel stronger during this .349 (53-152) clip since May 16th?
“It’s just law of averages,” said Carpenter. “I hit so bad the first month that you figured it was going to turn the other way. I don’t think that my shoulder’s strength is stronger than it’s ever been–I wouldn’t say that either. It’s just having good at-bats and feeling good at the plate.”
Similar to most teams, Cleveland employed a defensive shift when Carpenter was at the plate. While he has hit more pitches to left field of late, on Tuesday he simply hit the ball over the shift.
“I just try to stay in the middle,” explained Carpenter. “If I get something to drive, try to drive it. I don’t try to pull the ball, I also don’t try to go the other way. I just try to stay through the middle and use the whole field. If I get pitches in that I can turn on, I will. If I don’t, then I’ll try to shoot it through the middle of the field.”
The win marked the fourth in a row for the Cardinals–which just before this streak looked as if the wheels might come completely off. There have been different big wins this season, some of the walk-off variety, that seemed as if they could provide a launching point for the team to find a consistent track only to fall short. But with this recent stretch, there’s a sense things could finally be locking into place.
“Yeah, with this team–how we’re piecing this together, it looks different,” said Carpenter. “We’re getting contributions from a little bit of everybody and starting to really put it together.”
photo credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports