Matt Carpenter's Clutch Home Run Carries Cardinals

Corey NolesCorrespondent IOctober 18, 2012

ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 17:  Matt Carpenter #13 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a two-run home run in the third inning against the San Francisco Giants in Game Three of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium on October 17, 2012 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

ST. LOUIS, Mo.—Offense was quite limited in a game that started shortly after 3 p.m. and didn’t end until nearly 10 p.m. on Wednesday evening.

When the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants took the field, the chance of rain loomed, but they managed to squeeze in 6-2/3 innings, before the rain became a factor.

In the first inning, Carlos Beltran went down with a strained left knee and super-utility player Matt Carpenter came in to fill the slot.

The chief reason Carpenter was chosen is because he has put up solid numbers against Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain. Prior to the game, Carpenter was 4-for-4 with two RBI against Cain and he added to those numbers in the Cardinals Wednesday night win.

“Really, there’s no explanation,” Carpenter said when asked why he has success against Cain. “He’s one of the best in the game and we all know that. Every at-bat I’ve had against him has been really tough—it’s always been a battle.”

Wednesday was no exception. The first at-bat started with Carpenter in the hole 0-2, but he worked his way back to a 2-2 count.

“Then he threw a slider across the plate and I was able to get a good swing on it,” Carpenter said.

The fact that he came into the game at all was a surprise, but he knew there was always a chance he could come in to pinch-hit late in the game.

“I didn’t even realize Carlos [Beltran] had hurt himself and the next thing you know Mike [Matheny] came up to me and told me to grab my glove because I was going to right field,” he said. “Anytime you can get an at-bat is good—it helps you stay sharp, but as far as staying ready on the bench, that’s the rule I’ve had all season long."

“There’s a routine that goes in with that with your pregame work and your batting practice and all of those things that help you get ready for the game,” Carpenter said, explaining his preparations process. “When the game starts, you just try to stay locked in with what’s happening so that stuff like this doesn’t surprise you. Tonight was one of those things you can’t expect, but you can still be ready for it, which I think I was.”

The home run Carpenter hit was measured at 421 feet—not a bad distance for a utility player. Power is nothing new to Carpenter, but it is at the major league level.

“As a minor leaguer, I was really known for hitting home runs,” he said. “This year, in spring training with Coach John Mabry and Coach Mark McGwire, we worked on a lot of things that would help to make that show up a little bit more—and it has this season. It’s been a good adjustment and I’d just like to hopefully keep it going.”

His manager also spoke highly of him following the game, praising his versatility:

“There are times we’re looking to see how we can get him in there,” Matheny said. “That’s a pretty strong statement with the lineup we have that there are days when we just know that he’s going to be an impact bat for us.”

This particular game was extra special to him because his mother and father were able to be at the stadium to watch. They took off work and left Texas at 3:30 a.m. and came straight to the stadium when they arrived in town.

They were in the stands and received ample media attention following his blast over the right field bullpen.

All quotes obtained firsthand.