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Matt Carpenter keeps hurting the team. Why do the St. Louis Cardinals insist on playing him?

Adding Matt Carpenter to the St. Louis Cardinals offense has been exactly the opposite of the boost the team needs when it comes to scoring runs.

The displaced lead-off hitter turned in an 0-for-3 performance Thursday night against the Cincinnati Reds, striking out twice and leaving two runners on base in a one-run loss. For the second night in a row, the Cardinals were threatened with being no-hit. Although they got away with it Wednesday in Kansas City, managing to put together one big inning, they weren’t so fortunate the next night, getting only two runners on base via a hit. That’s just not acceptable.

Throw in the fact that Carpenter’s defense is atrocious and St. Louis has seen its razor-thin margin for victory erode a little bit more.

It’s all part of disturbing trend that has seen the nomadic infielder’s value decrease each of the past three years. While he’s never hit better than .272 since his third season in the big leagues — when he used to be a more versatile hitter before he decided to sell out for home runs — Carpenter’s calling card has always been his on-base percentage. Through 2017, Carpenter got on base at a .379 clip. This year, he’s getting on base at a .323 rate.

Carpenter’s on base skills are extremely important to his game because he doesn’t field or throw well and he’s slow on the bases so he’s a big double play threat. I feared last winter that the addition of Paul Goldschmidt would have dire consequences for Carpenter because his poor arm was exposed when he had to move back to third base and the increased defensive demands can cause a distraction at the plate for a player who’s carrying his defense with him to the dish.

I have to wonder if the Cardinals gifted Carpenter his new two-year contract to make up for the fact that the team took his best position away from him to accommodate Goldschmidt. But it’s a pretty scary prospect to think of three more years of a declining Carpenter to the tune of $18.5 million per year.

If the Cardinals are going to make the postseason, they can’t let Yadier Molina play every day. Jeff Roberson AP

Yadier Molina also hurting the offense

I hate to say it, but Yadier Molina also is not helping the sagging St. Louis offense. He’s seemed weak since his return from a stay on the injured list because of a problem with a thumb ligament. It’s not a surprise — that’s a tough injury to come back from. If you can’t grip the bat, you can’t swing it to your best ability.

It’s going to be an uncomfortable situation because Molina wants to play all the time. Not most of the time, but all the time. While their career resumes aren’t comparable, Matt Wieters is the better hitter right now and the Cardinals can’t afford to give away anything at the plate. It seems like the Cardinals have a conundrum: Do they appease their legendary receiver for the sake of their long term relationship, or do they tell Yadi he’s going to have to split time with Wieters until his bat comes around?

Up to this point, there has never been a legitimate alternative to Molina. He was simply the best catcher in baseball and 75 percent of him was better than anyone else. But Wieters isn’t the typical backup catcher. He’s good enough to start for a lot of teams and he offers some valuable pop when he’s in the lineup.

With Carpenter and Molina struggling, it’s time for the

With two veteran contributors suddenly vulnerable, it’s time for Tommy Edman and Andrew Knizner getting more of a chance to show what they can do.