ST. LOUIS – The World Champion Cardinals have something special going. By now, if you don't believe that, you haven't been paying attention.
Carlos Beltran, the best hitter in postseason history, had to leave the Game 3 early because of knee pain. So what happens? The guy who replaces him, a bit player, becomes the hero.
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Matt Carpenter, who is most famous for not being related to Chris Carpenter, drilled a two-run home run off Giants starter Matt Cain the inning after replacing Beltran. As fate would have it, that third-inning homer was the big hit in the Cardinals' 3-1 victory that put them up, 2-1, in the NLCS.
Carpenter is a pretty fair bench player and pinch hitter, but he cuts a very low profile. Beltran, meanwhile, is the career playoff OPS leader at 1.327. That's everybody, all-time.
But Beltran has dicey knees, and Carpenter was ready. His homer landed in the Cardinals bullpen, 421 feet away.
Beyond Carpenter's drive, there was a lot of great strategy by first-year Cardinals manager Mike Matheny in a game that was interrupted in the seventh inning by a three-hour, 28-minute rain delay. The best move was intentionally walking Giants MVP candidate Buster Posey to put runners at first and third before Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse, who pitched another solid game despite five walks (four unintentional), induced Hunter Pence to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the third inning. That was right before Carpenter's homer.
In the first ever LCS matchup of the previous two World Series winners, decorum ruled the day. The Giants didn't retaliate against Cardinals star Matt Holliday, whose hard slide injured scrappy Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro. Scutaro played and had two hits. The Giants had baserunners throuought the game but couldn't push home runs beyond one in the third, on Pablo Sandovals' groundout.
Whatever the Cardinals do seems right. Matheny pulled a surprise move, calling upon closer Jason Motte to pitch two innings to close out the game. He did.
But the real surprise was Carpenter. The other Carpenter.