First at second: Cardinals' Carpenter hopes to stay hot in postseason

News-DemocratOctober 1, 2013 

St. Louis manager Mike Matheny talks about deciding on a playoff roster. Matheny spoke during the team's workout Tuesday

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— St. Louis fans know plenty about Matt Carpenter. Now Carpenter is about to reintroduce himself on the national stage.

Carpenter was a promising rookie last season when the Cardinals advanced to the National League Championship Series.

Carpenter became a much larger force this season. He plugged a void by becoming the Cardinals' second baseman in spring training, then put together one of the best seasons in franchise history.

The MVP candidate took over as the Cardinals' leadoff hitter and batted batted .318 with major-league highs in doubles (55) and runs scored (126). He paced the National League in hits (199).

Carpenter didn't exactly see it coming.

"If I would have said at the beginning of spring training that I would be able to accomplish the things I did this year probably would have been a stretch for some people," he said. "That being said, I was confident in my ability to be a productive player. I didn't really know what that meant, having never done it before.

"I didn't know what I was capable of, but it was an exciting year for me, and I'm looking forward to doing that in the postseason."

The left-handed-hitting Carpenter, 27, is most pleased about his ability to be a run-scoring machine. The next-highest number of runs scored was 109, by Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels.

"For me, the thing I'm probably the most proud of is runs scored," he said. "Because ultimately, runs are what helps win games. As a leadoff hitter, that's your job --get on base and score runs.

"I feel like I did a good job of that. If I can continue that and keep doing my part as a leadoff hitter, we should have a good postseason ride. I'm looking forward to keeping it going."

Carpenter on Sept. 21 set a franchise record for most doubles by a left-handed hitter. Stan Musial had the former record of 53, set in 1953. Carpenter had two doubles in a game eight times.

Carpenter recorded 63 multihit games, including 18 three-hit outbursts, and batted .391 with runners in scoring position. He set a Busch Stadium III record with 112 hits.

"You always wonder about a guy the league sees on a consistent basis," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "I said the same thing about Allen Craig. But I've seen them continue to just be the same guy and take the same kind of relentless at-bats.

"(Carpenter's) had a great year. He's been tremendously fun to watch and he's had a great impact to so many players on this club."

Defensively, Carpenter was athletic enough to handle the responsibilities of the position, and he expects to improve in 2014. He finished the season with 12 errors, nine of them at second.

"I'm a lot better second baseman than I was last year, considering I had never played it," joked Carpenter. "But I feel good with the work we've put in and where I'm at. Hopefully, I continue to get better every day with it."

Carpenter, who batted .286 (4-for-14) in nine playoff games last year, said he and teammates will draw from that experience.

"For guys who have been part of the postseason and understand what it takes and what it feels like to play in these big games, there's definitely an advantage to that," he said. "It is a different atmosphere. A lot's at stake.

"Having the experience will definitely be an advantage. It's something you can learn from and take into this year."

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