It wasn’t long ago many Cardinals fans were casting befuddled looks Matt Carpenter’s direction, wondering if the beloved lead-off man would ever regain his swing and turn his season around offensively.
Small children cried. Large children cried. People panicked.
Every player struggles, but this was Matt Carpenter, one of the overall toughest Cardinal outs over the past decade, and the guy Pete Rose once told us was one of his “favorite players in the league,” and a “multi-hit machine.”
Carpenter wasn’t the same guy throughout this season’s first portion, and one could tell it was eating at him; that is, until he finally unloaded the hitting arsenal Cardinal Nation always knew he still had hidden somewhere. Well, he found it.
In fact, he went ahead and entered the Redbird record books with five hits, five runs scored and two homers in Tuesday’s 11-2 victory over Cleveland and their ace, Corey Kluber. The only other Cardinals to ever record five runs and score five times: Stan Musial and Wally Moon.
“I was a fan of this game way longer than I’ve been a player, and anytime you get put into conversations with names like Stan Musial and Wally Moon and some of the great players who have donned this jersey, it’s just a really, really neat feeling,” Carpenter recently told ‘The Bernie Miklasz Show.’ “It’s hard to explain. [Tuesday] night was a lot of fun and certainly something I’ll remember forever.”
It turns out that not unlike a golfer with the shanks, Carpenter required a little mechanical maintenance to his swing, which led to opposing teams picking him apart from April up to recently.
“I was told this one of my first years coming up here: If you don’t have your swing where it needs to be from a mechanical standpoint, you will get your lunch money stolen from you every single day,” Carpenter said. “It could not be more true. The big league pitchers, advanced scouting, the video that people do; it’s so unbelievably good that if you’ve got a minor swing flaw; if you’ve got something going on and you’re struggling, they will expose you over, and over and over again.”
Carp went on to describe what exactly opposing pitchers were taking advantage of and threw some credit where it was due.
“My barrel was dropping a little bit. My swing through the zone was slightly off and they were exposing it. They were exposing it every single day. Until you make that adjustment, things can get really ugly,” he said.
“I credit our hitting coaches. They’ve really done a great job with it. This is a tough town and at times they can kind of get thrown through the ringer when the offense is struggling, but I give them a lot of credit of getting me back to where I needed to be and advising me and showing me one of the things that was causing me trouble.”
Carpenter went further in depth on what helped him rise above his issues at the dish, as well as this Cardinal team’s chemistry. You can read more of his insights below, followed by the entire interview’s audio.
On his slump and what occurred to help pull him out of it:
“I definitely wear my emotions on my sleeve when it comes to performance. I take it so personally. From an organization standpoint, I feel like I let my teammates down. I don’t like it.
“[The front office] sat me down and let me know that things weren’t as ugly as they seemed. Some of the advanced numbers were trending where they typically were. They were very adamant about telling me to stay the course, these things tend to even out. That was a good feeling.
“I also found a lot of peace in the fact, and they were the ones who made me aware of this, that surprisingly enough, this wasn’t even the worst stretch of my career…In 2015…Somewhere in the middle of the season I had a worse stretch at the plate. But it wasn’t as big a deal because I hit .370 in April and .290 in May and then had the worst stretch of my career right there after that.”
On this particular team’s chemistry:
“The one thing that I really love about this team, and you can’t say this about every team I’ve ever played on because it’s a rare thing, but man this team has a really good chemistry to it and guys just really get along. They play the game with a joy. There’s some fun in the clubhouse and that leads to cool things when you see flashes of exciting things like the sweep of the Cubs at home.
“The walk-off games; we’ve had a ton of walk-off games this year. Those kind of things happen when you have that kind of chemistry on a team and everybody’s pulling for each other and there’s no ego in there. If you do that, and you play well, that’s when championships happen.”
On teammates who have also struggled this season:
“Tommy Pham; he’s going to get going. If there’s anybody who I would never doubt, it’s a guy like that. Nobody works harder than him and he’s going to figure it out. And I feel like that about all these guys. I think they’ll all come out of it, and if they do and we all do it at the right time, we’ve got a chance to be special.”