ST. LOUIS – Matt Carpenter became a high-end leadoff man because of his smarts, production and ability to work counts.
Now, add: bat to be feared.
The lefty swinging third baseman led the St. Louis Cardinals’ sudden power surge in the N.L. Division Series, ending some of the chatter about the team’s season-long, long-ball shortage.
The Cardinals hit 105 homers during the season, second-fewest in the majors ahead of only the cross-state Royals, also still playing this October. St. Louis belted seven against the Dodgers, with Carpenter connecting in three straight games.
The homers accounted for 13 of the Cardinals’ 18 runs in the four-game series.
“Yeah, we’ve heard a lot about that this season, the lack of homers,” manager Mike Matheny said. “We’ve got guys who can do it but we’re still not preaching it.
“They’re just taking good at-bats, and when they do the ball’s going to jump out from time to time,” Matheny added.
Carpenter totaled eight home runs in the regular season, none of them in consecutive games, before joining Albert Pujols as the lone Cardinals player to homer in three successive postseason games. The feat is all the more exceptional given all three came in lefty-lefty matchups.
Carpenter led the Cardinals with seven RBIs in the series. He said the key is staying in there to be able to reach the breaking balls heading for the other side of the plate. His consistent, intensely-focused approach reminds Matheny of Pujols in his prime.
“I think it’s a confidence thing, too,” Carpenter said. “For the most part, the overall theme is you want to stay on them and try to use the whole field.”
Left-handed batters hit five homers off Dodgers lefties in the series after totaling eight during the season. Matt Adams had the biggest of the five, hitting a go-ahead three-run shot off in the clinching Game 4.
Adams batted .190 with three homers and 15 RBIs against lefties. His extra work paid off in the clutch. He had to be prepared for Kershaw and lefty relievers.
“It was no secret that I struggled throughout the season against lefties,” Adams said. “So I did a lot of work coming up to the series just hitting on the curveball machine down in the cage.”
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