The Matt "Leadoff Guy" Carpenter Game
Honestly, are you even surprised anymore? I know we talk about it all the time, at least since that afternoon back on May 16th in Minnesota. Matt Carpenter, leadoff guy, would step into face his old teammate, Lance Lynn, with a slash line of .140/.286/.272. Since then, it’s been the most incredible turn around I’ve ever witnessed in my baseball watching lifetime, and that’s roughly 15 years. Carpenter would finish the game going (3-5) with 2 doubles, one coming vs a lefty in Zach Duke. It was the beginning of Matt Carpenter becoming vintage Matt Carpenter, but probably better.
Coming into today’s contest, Carp’s slash line now sat at .263/.373/.536, while also adding 17 HR’s since that afternoon in Minneapolis.
Carpenter led off this afternoons game in a very similar fashion, smacking his 21st HR of the season to deep RF off Jon Lester, hitting the video board while traveling 401 feet at 106 mph off the bat.
Not to get lost in the Carp performance, Jack Flaherty battled tough through 5 innings for the Cardinals this afternoon. After hitting the Cubs leadoff man, Anthony Rizzo, with a pitch, Flaherty would induce a 5-4-3 double play on Bryant to bring up Heyward. Flaherty would get Heyward on 3 straight knuckle-curves, recording his first of 9 strikeouts.
The Cardinals would pad their lead in the top of the 2nd inning, getting a lead off walk from Gyorko as Wong would sacrifice him up to second. Dex (2-5, 2 RBI), taking his cuts from the right side, would hit an RBI double into the LF corner, scoring Gyorko to make it 2-0. Tommy Pham (3-5) would collect his second consecutive three-hit game, lining an RBI single to CF to score Dex to make it 3-0.
Flaherty then sacrificed Pham to second for Carp. And Carp was just getting started with a truly historic performance. Carpenter would get a low fastball to his liking and crank it to RCF for a 2-run shot, making it 5-0 Cardinals.
Contreras would take Flaherty deep to LF after Báez opened the inning fanning at a slider to make it 5-1. Flaherty picked up his 3rd strikeout of his outing getting Babe Ruth to look at a fastball for the second out of the 2nd. After Almora delivered a two out single, Russell would fly out to Ozuna to end the inning.
Flaherty worked out of his biggest jam in the bottom of the 3rd, a self induced jam too. Jack would pick up his 4th strikeout getting Lester looking at a knuckle-curve. The next three Cubs would reach base, all without putting the ball in play. Rizzo walked, Bryant HBP, and Heyward walked. Flaherty kept his cool, picking up back-to-back strikeouts to Houdini his way out of danger. Flaherty got Báez and Contreras both to swing and miss at filthy sliders, Flaherty’s best pitch of the outing.
The Cardinals officially made this a blowout in the top of the 4th, scoring 7 runs to go up 12-1. Carpenter also added two doubles to his already incredible performance today, both coming this inning, as the Cardinals would bat around for the second time in 4 innings.
Carp doubled to LF, Yadi walked, DeJong walked, and Maddon had seen enough from Lester. Anthony Bass would come in to throw his second consecutive night, and he picked up right where Lester left off, giving up an RBI single to Swags, followed by back-to-back walks with the bases loaded to Gyorko and Wong.
James Norwood would come in to try and record the first out of the inning for the Cubs. Dex would hit a sac-fly to CF, scoring Ozuna. Tommy Pham would keep his bad scorching hot, hitting another RBI single, this one scoring Trap House and Wong. Guess who would drive in Pham? You guessed it right, Matt Carpenter. Carp would take an RBI double to RF to score Pham, bringing his game line to (4-4) with 2 HR’s, 2 doubles and 4 RBI’s.
With rain in the area and sneaking in, Flaherty would come out firing strikes in the bottom of the 4th, retiring the side in order on 10 pitches. Flaherty added his 7th punch out of the game too, getting Almora looking at a fastball.
Flaherty’s final inning of the afternoon came in the bottom of the 5th. After two quick outs on Norwood (ground out) and Rizzo (strikeout), Flaherty would walk Bryant and Heyward to make things interesting.
But Flaherty would escape trouble again, getting Báez to swing and miss at a slider for his 9th strikeout, the 3rd on Báez all coming via the slider.
Flaherty’s final line: (5 IP, 2 hits, 1r/1er, 4 bb, 9 k’s)
Matt Carpenter capped off his afternoon in the top of the 6th, against another left-handed pitcher, Brian Duensing. Oh, also there was 2 outs. Dex would reach with a one out infield single. After a Pham fly out to deep CF, Flaherty would walk, still batting for himself. Carp then snuck his 3rd HR of the afternoon over the ivy down the RF line, landing in the basket. This was Carp’s final at bat of the game, finishing the game with 16 total bases, 5 XBH’s and 7 RBI’s.
/\ stat above credited to Jenifer Langosch.
Matt Carpenter is the first Cardinals player to ever go (5-5) with all 5 hits being for extra bases, you read that right, EVER! He also became the first player in MLB history to record 5 XBH’s in the first 6 innings of a game.
Carpenter ended the day with a slash line of: .274/.381/.576, with 23 HR’s, 51 RBI’s, and 30 doubles.
This is when Joe Maddon waved the white flag, finishing the game with three position players on the mound to eat up the final 3.1 innings. La Stella got the first go, tossing 1.1 innings, giving up a solo HR to Greg Garcia. La Stella would induce a double play on Gyorko during his outing. Victor Caratini would get inning number 8, giving up a 2-run shot to Muñoz (pinch-hitting), who would take it to CF to cap off the offense explosion to make it 18-4.
This game finally ended after 3 hours and 55 minutes, ending with a total of 23 runs, 28 hits, and 19 runners LOB.
Also, when was the last time three position players pitched in a game? That’s gotta be some sort of record too. Today was an afternoon for the ages, in many ways. The Cardinals offense sure does look recharged with new hitting coaches at the helms.
The Cardinals and Cubs will play a double-header tomorrow. Luke Weaver (5-8, 4.72) and Tyler Chatwood (3-5, 5.04) get things started in game-one starting at 12:05 c/t.
John Gant (3-3, 3.49) and Mike Montgomery* (3-3, 3.91) will face off in game-two, scheduled to begin on FOX at 6:15 c/t.
I hope we all can enjoy Matt Carpenter for the legend he is.
Thanks for reading, cheers!
Game 96 is "in the books" by Stew