St. Louis Cardinals fans breathed a collective sigh of relief Tuesday night when Matt Carpenter returned with a bang.
The Redbirds third baseman, who mysteriously missed the entire weekend series against the Pirates in Pittsburgh with what the club would only describe as “extreme fatigue,” wasted no time getting back into a groove. He collected a pair of hits, including his 15th double of the year. Carpenter also scored a pair of runs and drove in another in an 8-3 win over the Cleveland Indians.
The productive night raised Carpenter’s season batting average to .336.
Carpenter is key to the Cardinals attack because, since the team doesn’t have a lot of home run power, it counts on a balanced attack to keep pressure on pitchers up and down the lineup.
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Unlike the last couple of years when the Redbirds had dead spots at the bottom of the lineup that allowed pitchers an easy inning every time through the lineup, the Cardinals can start rallies from anyplace in the order. But when Carpenter was out, there was simply no one on the roster who could fill the void at the top.
St. Louis pounded out 13 hits on the night. Mark Reynolds had three while Matt Holliday, Jhonny Peralta and Yadier Molina joined Carpenter with two each.
Reynolds, who served as the designated hitter in an American League park, collected his three hits and two RBIs from the eighth spot.
While a key offensive cog got healthy, the night wasn’t without an injury scare for the Birds.
Early in the game Lance Lynn deflected a ball hit hard back through the middle with a finger on his pitching hand. He said he was okay and stayed in the game. But afterwards he seemed to struggle with his control.
Lynn threw a whopping 118 pitches in six inning of work. He allowed four hits and issued four walks while striking out 9. It was good enough for Lynn’s second victory of the season which came on the hurler’s 28th birthday.
The Cardinals bullpen, which had been a tremendous strength earlier in the season, almost cost the club the game late Tuesday.
After Lynn departed, Matt Belisle allowed two hits and two runs in 1/3 of an inning. Randy Choate came in and gave up a hit and a run without recording an out to make a game that was 4-0 suddenly 4-3 with the tying run on base.
Fortunately, Kevin Siegrist was able to steady things with a quiet inning of work, the offense pounded out four more runs to restore the large cushion and Miguel Socolovich closed things out with 1 2/3 innings of strong work.