ST. LOUIS A game after going 4-for-4 with a triple, home run and five RBI to lead the Cardinals past the Chicago Cubs, rookie Matt Carpenter did it again Tuesday.
Pinch-hitting with the bases loaded and one out in the tenth inning, Carpenter lined a sacrifice fly to right field to score pinch-runner Tyler Greene from third base and give the Cardinals a 2-1 win.
"My heart was pumping a little bit," Carpenter said. "That's one of those situations as a hitter you dream of, a chance to win the game. Coming off the bench like that, in that situation with the bases loaded, it's a lot of fun and it's a lot more fun when you pull it off. "
The left-handed hitting Carpenter was selected to pinch-hit, despite Reds lefty Bill Bray being on the mound. Right-handed batters Tony Cruz and Shane Robinson were available to hit, but Matheny's choice of Carpenter paid off.
"I feel comfortable against leftys," Carpenter said. "I've never faced him before. I've seen him through video and on deck watching Descalso face him before me. I just tried to get comfortable and try to get a feel for him and then when you get in there, all bets are off and your competing and trying to get the job done and thankfully I was able to do that tonight."
BERKMAN, FREESE RETURN TO LINEUP
First baseman Lance Berkman and third baseman David Freese were both back in the lineup Tuesday after missing time over the weekend due to injuries.
Berkman missed four games with a calf strain after leaving the Cardinals' 3-1 win over the Reds in Cincinnati on April 10.
"When we set out the plan, this was sort of the target date," Berkman said Tuesday afternoon. "It feels good. We're right on schedule.
"I ran on Sunday and it felt pretty good and didn't get bad yesterday so in my mind, that was kind of the last hurdle to get over."
Freese was a late scratch to Saturday's lineup with irritation to the ring finger on his right, throwing hand. The third baseman had the bat fly out of his hands twice while swinging during the home opener on Friday.
"They both sent texts yesterday to make sure that the thought process was going in their direction," said manager Mike Matheny, who said of Freese, "He just couldn't grip the bat."
CRAIG PROGRESSING TOWARD GAME ACTION
Outfielder Allen Craig returned to Florida following the Cardinals ring ceremony Saturday and could begin playing in extended spring training games in the next few days.
Craig, who is recovering from offseason surgery for a broken kneecap, likely would need a rehab stint after taking at-bats on the back fields at the Cardinals' complex in Jupiter.
The Cardinals originally targeted May 1 as a likely return date for the outfielder but bumped that up as he progressed this spring. He was even seen as likely to make the Opening Day roster for a short time before suffering a setback.
"What happened was, I think a few of us myself included, were a little overanxious trying to get him back, thinking we would take him however we could get him," Matheny said. "But we had plenty of guys and I think that's played true in the first 10 games here, the bench guys that we have are playing well filling in and to push him didn't make sense.
"I think all of us look at the roster and saw him and the ability to have that kind of right-handed bat in the lineup and we tried to push it a little bit. The timeline really should have been the same all along. We just threw it into high gear with optimism, he had a couple good days, but it was premature to make the jump we made."
Craig hit three home runs and robbed a potential home run in left field in the World Series while playing on a knee that he knew would likely require surgery in the coming weeks.
SCHUMAKER REHABBING WITH TRIPLE-A MEMPHIS
Utility man Skip Schumaker began a rehab stint with the Cardinals Triple-A affiliate in Memphis on Sunday. He's 1-for-6 in two games (heading into Tuesday night) as he recovers from a strained oblique.
Asked if he would be back by the weekend, manager Mike Matheny said, "That's probably too early, but I think he's going to continue to work in Memphis and see how things go without really putting a timeline on it."
Schumaker admitted last season that he retuned from an early-season injury too fast and didn't have his timing back. He's hoping to not let the same thing happen again.
"I think that was pretty clear when he went out to Memphis, not to just get yourself healthy but get yourself right and ready to go," Matheny said. "Mark made mention also of last year that he did rush back before he was ready to jump in against Major League caliber pitching so he will be getting a good test in Triple-A."
Carlos Beltran was in Tuesday's lineup after leaving Sunday's game early with pain in his right forearm after being hit by a pitch. Reliever Scott Linebrink has begun playing catch but has yet to throw off a mound. He will likely need a couple of rehab appearances before returning to the big league roster. Matheny said any bad blood between the Cardinals and Reds appears to be over. "We just play the game," Matheny said. "I think you just go out and play and see how things play out, but trying to carry something over, I don't think is smart."