The numbers were bad. The trajectory of the game was unpleasant, and that it followed a sour weekend sweep at the hands of the Pirates didn’t make the mood any better. The Cardinals were three outs by White Sox closer Joakim Soria away from losing their fourth game in a row, the story again being a silencing of their bats.
Outside of Tommy Pham’s lead off home run in their first at-bat of the night Tuesday, the Cardinals allowed James Shields to shut them down for six innings across which they mustered only one additional hit. Much like Nick Kingham’s flirtation with perfection against St. Louis Sunday, the Cardinals weren’t gaining much traction at the plate.
Yet when they absolutely had to do so, the Cardinals finally dug in. They looked like a completely different offense in the ninth inning, scorching three balls to account for a Matt Carpenter home run, a Marcell Ozuna double and a lined single by Yadier Molina to cap a miracle ninth inning rally and send the Cardinals to a 3-2 win.
“It’s just nice to see the guys get going that we know are going to get going,” Mike Matheny said.
Entering the ninth, four of the eight Cardinal position players that started the game had a sub-.600 OPS for the season. It took just a matter of minutes to cut that number in half, as Carpenter and Ozuna launched a pair of rockets. While Carpenter’s cleared the wall, Ozuna’s missed doing so by a matter of inches, which meant Molina had a chance to do his thing.
That Carpenter and Ozuna did theirs, the thing that the Cardinals have been waiting to see consistently from them both for a month or so, was a crucial step toward St. Louis rounding into the team it believes it can be.
“They’re a big piece of our team,” Matheny said of the duo. “We never want to put everything on anybody’s shoulders, but we know those are two consistent performers. They know as well as anybody that they’re better than how it’s been going lately, and they wanna see the results.”
This is especially true for Carpenter, who said Tuesday he had a more formal briefing from team personnel on what exactly might have been hurting his numbers more so than anything else over the first month of the season: bad luck.
“The last three weeks of April, I felt good,” Carpenter said. “I hit the ball hard, just didn’t have a lot to show for it. I sat down with some of our front office, they were showing me some of the data showing that I had been hitting the ball hard, that I’d been unlucky and things just hadn’t really worked out for me.
“You can only hear ‘hey, nice swing’ so many times… When you see it on paper saying ‘this is what it actually looks like,’ that can be a boost of confidence.”
Seeing the numbers, the analytics laid out for him helped Carpenter understand that patience and trust in his approach might be the best thing for him. But while there’s something about seeing it on paper that makes it easier to comprehend, it doesn’t get more tangible than going out and doing it with a double and a home run in consecutive at-bats.
He sparked the rally that led to the win Tuesday; Carpenter hopes the win can kick start a new sort of rally for Cardinal hitters, the type of hitters because of whom he remains convinced that special things are on the way.
“When we’ve got most of our guys rolling the way that they should and the way that they’re capable, it’s going to be a tough lineup to get through,” Carpenter said. “One run (lead) in the ninth is not going to be enough. We’re going to be a team that is going to be hard to close the door on, and today you saw that.”