Found April 15, 2012 on
Fox Sports Midwest:
ST. LOUIS The framed Lance Berkman jersey still hangs on his bedroom wall inside his parent's house. But if Matt Carpenter keeps hitting like this, Berkman may soon ask for his jersey.
Carpenter completed an impressive weekend with a Sunday he'll likely remember the rest of his life, going 4-for-4 with a triple, five RBIs and his first career big league home run to help the Cardinals beat the Chicago Cubs, 10-3, at Busch Stadium.
All while doing so as a replacement for his favorite player growing up in Houston.
"I don't think I could have wrote it up any better," Carpenter said. "It's just one of those special days, special weekends, and I'm just really happy about it."
Starting all three games at first base because of a calf injury to Berkman, the rookie more than made the most of his opportunity. Carpenter went 7-for-12 with a double, two triples, a home run and seven RBI.
On his first Opening Day roster because of injuries to Skip Schumaker and Allen Craig, Carpenter has helped fuel the Cardinals' 7-3 start by hitting .409 (9-for-22) with two doubles, two triples, a home run and 10 RBIs.
The 26-year-old Carpenter enjoyed his first five-RBI game and first four-hit game to go along with his first big league bomb. His five RBI were the most by a Cardinals rookie since David Freese had six RBI against Atlanta on April 29, 2010.
"We got some guys banged up so the opportunity is there and I'm trying to make the most of it when I get that chance," Carpenter said. "I feel good. It's just one of those things where when you get a chance to play and compete.
"I couldn't tell you I would have dreamed of having a game like this. You're just trying to grind it out and play one pitch at a time and I was fortunate enough to have a pretty successful day."
Carpenter was a 13th round draft pick by the Cardinals in 2009 out of Texas Christian University. The rare fifth-year senior was one of the best players in school history and holds the career mark for games played. He's second all-time in TCU history in hits and doubles and is fourth in RBIs.
The left-handed hitting Carpenter missed almost all of his college season in 2007 due to Tommy John surgery, somewhat of a rare happening for a position player.
A quick mover through the Cardinals minor league system, Carpenter spent most of his first full professional season at Springfield in 2010. He nearly won a roster spot last spring before opening the year at Memphis.
Carpenter hit .300 with 12 home runs, 70 RBI and 29 doubles in 130 games at Triple-A last year. He earned a brief call-up to the Cardinals last June, recording one hit in 15 at-bats over seven games.
He led the club with 20 hits during an impressive showing in spring training and hasn't stopped hitting since.
"I think he was just taught the game the right way," said manager Mike Matheny. "I've told him that before. He needs to make sure he goes home and thanks his dad because he's a ballplayer. As soon as he steps on the field, he wants to do things the right way. The way he hustles out, the way he runs out every ground ball, the way he's conscientious of what the next play might be.
"He's got his antenna up and he knows the game, but then you have to have the ability. There's a lot of people with that kind of heart but then to mix in that kind of talent to go with it makes him the kind of guy you want to pull for."
But Carpenter does more than just hit. He broke up a double play with a hard slide in the second inning that led to a two-out RBI hit from Shane Robinson and then snagged a line drive and stepped on first base for a key double play to end the sixth.
Carpenter has already played left field, right field and first base this year. His primary position is third base and he recently bought a catcher's mitt in case he is needed to catch in an emergency situation.
"I think I'm the emergency-emergency catcher," Carpenter joked.
Carpenter idolized Berkman while growing up an Astros fan in Houston. When his parents moved to Dallas to be closer to him while he attended TCU, the jersey came along and was hung back up at their new house.
Now Carpenter's big league locker stands next to the guy he grew up wanting to be like. And Berkman couldn't be happier to offer tips and advice whenever possible.
He's even willing to give up his spot once he's healthy enough to return.
"I'd be more than happy to sit on the bench if he is going to continue to hit like that, there's no doubt," Berkman said. "If they need me, I'll be available. They may not. They certainly didn't need me this weekend."
It's been a whirlwind week for Carpenter, who had his wife, mother and mother-in-law in town to witness it. He just hopes it can continue. Berkman and the Cardinals agree.
BEST OF MAXIM
Less than two weeks into its championship-defending season and key St. Louis Cardinals are already suffering injuries. While that will likely raise Cardinals’ fans blood pressure, these injuries should not cause panic, yet.
Photo Courtesy of Erika Lynn
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