Monday, April 14, 2014
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Carpenter Sparkles In Cardinals' Win Over Cubs

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[April 14, 2014]  ST. LOUIS  Unlike most leadoff hitters, Matt Carpenter won't blind you with his speed, although he did swipe his first bag of the year Sunday.

But few leadoff men in the game front their teams' offense as well as Carpenter, a point made abundantly clear again in the St. Louis Cardinals' 6-4 win over the Chicago Cubs at sold-out Busch Stadium.

The third baseman had a hand in his team's first four runs, driving in three. He could have easily had five RBIs, but first baseman Anthony Rizzo snagged his line shot in the eighth, which was ticketed for the right-field corner with two men aboard.

Through 12 games, Carpenter is tied with catcher Yadier Molina for the team lead in RBIs with nine and is hitting .295 with a .411 on-base percentage. He's scored 10 of St. Louis' 48 runs.

"When you get up there in those situations, you find a way to get those runs in," Carpenter said. "You just try to put a good at-bat together and get the job done."

In the bottom of the second, with Chicago (4-8) ahead 2-0 after Rizzo's two-run homer in the first, Carpenter tied the game with a two-out, two-strike, two-run single up the middle which scored right fielder Allen Craig and shortstop Jhonny Peralta. Carpenter then stole second and rode home on an RBI single by second baseman Kolten Wong.

Two innings later, Carpenter cashed in a leadoff triple by center fielder Peter Bourjos with a sacrifice fly to medium-deep left field, giving the Cardinals (7-5) the lead for good at 4-3.

"With the kind of at-bats he takes," manager Mike Matheny said, "any time that he's up with men on base, I like our chances to get the run home. We saw the same thing from him last year."

Carpenter was a breakout star in last year's run to a National League title, breaking a franchise record with 55 doubles, which also led the majors, hits (199) and runs (126) as he batted .318 with 11 homers and 78 RBIs.

St. Louis' offense is showing signs of returning to last year's form, when the Cardinals scored nearly five runs per game. It raised its average 26 points over the last two games with the Cubs, collecting 24 hits in the last two games.

Michael Wacha (2-0) picked up his second win of the week, overcoming a quick deficit and a 46-minute rain delay in the third inning to work 6 1/3 innings. Wacha allowed just five hits and three runs, walking one and fanning eight.

"I was erratic but had good stuff," he said. "I had some quick innings and that helped me out."

Peralta's run-producing double and Bourjos' RBI on a grounder that third baseman Mike Olt booted, enabling Craig to score, gave the Cardinals a 6-3 lead in the eighth.

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Chicago nearly pulled off a dramatic comeback off closer Trevor Rosenthal in the ninth. Olt's single scored Junior Lake, who tripled. Catcher Welington Castillo, who singled home the tying run in the fourth, was hit by a pitch to put the tying run on first.

But second baseman Luis Valbuena flew out and center fielder Emilio Bonifacio grounded out, enabling Rosenthal to notch his fourth save.

"We had him scuffling around a little bit," Rizzo said, "but we just came up short. We've been scoring some runs, but we need to convert some of those into wins."

Starter Edwin Jackson (0-1) worked six innings for the Cubs, giving up eight hits and four runs while walking three and fanning five.

St. Louis starts an 11-game road trip Monday night in Milwaukee, winners of nine in a row. Carpenter is looking forward to the challenge of hitting the Brewers' solid starting pitching.

"They've got a good ball club over there," he said. "It should be a good series."

NOTES: Before Sunday's game, Chicago optioned LHP Chris Rusin to Class AAA Iowa and recalled RHP Blake Parker from Iowa. Rusin worked five innings in relief on Saturday, allowing only one run and saving a taxed bullpen. Parker threw three scoreless innings in three outings for Iowa this season with a save. ... St. Louis announced Sunday that veteran 2B Mark Ellis would begin a rehabilitation assignment of up to 20 days at Class AAA Memphis. Ellis (knee) was injured during spring training. ... All three games of the series were sellouts, giving the Cardinals four on the homestand.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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