The St. Louis Cardinals downed the San Francisco Giants 5-4 Sunday night, knotting up the NLCS at one game apiece. Once again Matt Carpenter played a huge role in a Cardinals postseason victory. After hitting eight home runs in 158 regular season games, the Cardinals infielder has drilled four in six postseason matches.
Carpenter burst onto the scene in 2013, his first full season as a second baseman. He led the National League in hits, runs score and doubles. The former 13th round draft pick posted a gaudy .318/.392/.481 slash line and played solid defense. At the end of the year, he totaled 6.9 fWAR, and finished fourth in the MVP voting. After the season, the Cardinals rewarded him with a contract extension covering six years and $52 million.
This season Carpenter didn’t produce the same power numbers, but he led the NL in walks and managed a strong .272/.375/.375 batting line. Carpenter’s versatility allowed the Cardinals to let rookie Kolten Wong take over at second while he replaced David Freese at third.
Carpenter came up big for the Cardinals in the NLDS. He notched the big hit in the Cardinals game one rally against Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, roping a bases-clearing double. The 28 year-old leadoff man also hit home runs in the first three games of that series. For that series he ripped the ball to the tune of a .375/.412/.1125 line, with three doubles and three home runs. After owning the second-lowest first-pitch swing rate during the regular season, he ambushed the Dodgers with two home runs and a double on first pitches.
In the NLCS, Carpenter was held to a lone single in the first game against the Giants as Madison Bumgarner and the Giants bullpen combined for a shutout. However, he hit another home run the next day, one of four on the night for the Cards, as they won in walk-off fashion.
After hitting just 102 home runs during the regular season, the fewest in the NL, the Cardinals have relied on the long ball this postseason. Matt Adams home run against Kershaw propelled them to a series-clinching win against the Dodgers. Wong drove home the winning runs the night before with a two run home run, and his walk-off blast Sunday night tied up the series.
This October hasn’t been short on the dramatic. The Cardinals are heading to San Francisco with the series tied. Matt Carpenter has fueled their offense from the leadoff spot.