(Busch Stadium) The names remain the same, but their place in the lineup has changed as Dexter Fowler will be leading off for the St. Louis Cardinals tonight and Matt Carpenter will bat fifth.
“I think it’s open-ended,” manager Mike Shildt said. “Clearly, he’s done a nice job where he’s been–getting on base, getting a lot of hits, doing some damage. It’s a spot he’s familiar with so we’re going to put him in the lead off spot and we’re going to move Carp down for a variety of reasons.”
A former lead-off hitter before arriving in St. Louis in 2017, Fowler has hit .266 with a .352 on-base percentage in 722 plate appearances to start the game. This year he has hit .333 (8-24) with a .367 OBP when leading off an inning. And while he has hit just .226 in his last ten games, Fowler has also drawn ten walks and overall owns a .407 OBP which is seventh-best in all of baseball.
“You think back to even when we signed him, the idea was to have two guys up top that were getting on base and then let the middle of the order take over,” Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak reminded. “Clearly, we’ve had nights where we’ve put a lot of crooked numbers up on the board and there’s been nights we put a lot of zeroes up on the board. Trying to do something different I think just makes sense.”
The Cardinals have scored 10 or more runs three times this month, but also have been shutout or scored only one run in seven other contests. Carpenter has seen his batting average climb to a high of .215 and then drop back to the .203 as he enters this weekend of play.
It was that struggle that led Shildt to give some consideration to a lineup change during the last homestand and he discussed the move with Carpenter a couple of days ago.
“I want to make sure I’m clear that we all feel like on our staff and most importantly Carp, that he feels as close as he’s been in a while to having the consistency that he expects and we all obviously want. It’s just an opportunity for him to get a different look in the lineup and create more opportunity for Dex in the number one spot.”
“I’ve said it since I’ve been a Cardinal, I’ll hit wherever I’m asked,” Carpenter said. “I’ve never asked to hit anywhere. I’ll hit wherever the manager writes me in, it was an easy conversation.”
Carpenter was at the .200 mark this time last year before embarking on a 28 home run, .300 stretch from June through August.
“This year is kind of more of a mild, like just haven’t really gotten hot as far as like being just completely in the cellar like I was last year,” Carpenter said. “Last year, I got to a point where I just felt like I didn’t know what I was doing–completely lost. I never have really gotten to that point with this season. I just haven’t gotten hot and haven’t got a bunch of hits, but I feel like I’m having good at-bats, walking, and seeing the ball. So it’s just been different.”
In his career, Carpenter has averaged an OBP of .393 and .390 in June and July.
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