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Carpenter's HR streak fueled by secret salsa

First baseman is 28th in MLB history to homer in 6 straight games
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

CHICAGO -- Matt Carpenter was stuck in the worst offensive funk of his career when, after a mid-May road trip, he returned home to find part of his backyard repurposed into a garden. It was a gift from teammate and avid gardener Adam Wainwright, who planted a variety of fruits and vegetables for Carpenter to cook and can.

It was with those ingredients that Carpenter started making homemade salsa, a culinary favorite of the corner infielder. He'd use it with chips, he'd put it on eggs, and, this week, for the first time, Carpenter took it on the road.

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CHICAGO -- Matt Carpenter was stuck in the worst offensive funk of his career when, after a mid-May road trip, he returned home to find part of his backyard repurposed into a garden. It was a gift from teammate and avid gardener Adam Wainwright, who planted a variety of fruits and vegetables for Carpenter to cook and can.

It was with those ingredients that Carpenter started making homemade salsa, a culinary favorite of the corner infielder. He'd use it with chips, he'd put it on eggs, and, this week, for the first time, Carpenter took it on the road.

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With that salsa as sustenance, he's having a series for the ages.

Carpenter elbowed his way further into the record books on Saturday with home runs in both ends of a doubleheader the Cardinals split with the Cubs at Wrigley Field. That extended Carpenter's home run streak to six consecutive games, tying a franchise record Mark McGwire once set. Carpenter, however, is the only Cardinal to achieve the feat in a single season.

Most consecutive games with a home run

"Maybe it's the salsa?" Carpenter shrugged after the team's 6-3, Game 2 win. "I don't know. But I'm going to keep eating it for sure."

Once the garden bloomed, so did Carpenter.

Tweet from @Cardinals: When you have a day like @MattCarp13 had yesterday you keep everything in your pre-game routine the exact same... right down to the homemade salsa! pic.twitter.com/gUv4hSKCU1

His stunning season turnaround has hit a crescendo coming out of the All-Star break. On Friday, he became the second player in Major League history with a three-homer, two-double game. By Saturday, he stood as the only player to ever hit six home runs in a series at Wrigley Field. There's one game left to be played this weekend, too.

Interim manager Mike Shildt described Carpenter as "hotter than a firecracker." Cubs manager Joe Maddon compared his tear to the one the Cubs endured in the 2015 National League Championship Series, when Mets' Daniel Murphy hit .529 with four home runs.

Video: STL@CHC: Carpenter homers twice in doubleheader

Carpenter has eight homers in 12 games against the Cubs this year. That's the most by a Cardinals player against their division rival since Jim Edmonds and Albert Pujols each hit eight in 2004.

"It's really hard to put into words what is happening," said Carpenter, who has a .761 slugging percentage and 1.202 OPS over his past 58 games. "I've felt like this before, in the sense that I feel comfortable at the plate and I'm swinging at good pitches and my swing feels like it's where it needs to be. Obviously, I've never had a stretch like this. It's hard to put into words."

It's also hard to find comparable history. Before Carpenter, only 27 players had homered in six straight games. Giancarlo Stanton was the last to do so (August 2017), and McGwire did it over the course of two seasons (1997-98). The record for consecutive games with a homer is eight, done by three players: Ken Griffey Jr. (Mariners, July 20-28, 1993), Don Mattingly (Yankees, July 8-18, 1987) and Dale Long (Pirates, May 19-28, 1956).

He's the first Cardinal since Pujols (Sept. 3-5, 2006) with five homers in a three-game span. The last Cardinal to go deep five times in two days was Stan Musial, who famously hit five in a 1954 doubleheader. It last happened elsewhere in 2016, when Mookie Betts tallied five homers from May 31-June 1.

Video: STL@CHC: Carpenter on hitting HRs in 6 straight games

Each of Carpenter's last 12 hits have been for extra bases, also a Cardinals record. The only other player to have eight homers and three doubles over a six-game span is Hall-of-Famer Ralph Kiner in 1947.

"You talk about locked in. That's what it looks like," Shildt said. "Glad he plays for us."

The bat Carpenter has been using all series will eventually be headed to the Hall of Fame … but not until after it breaks.

"I'm still using it right now," Carpenter confirmed.

Video: Carpenter homers for 8th time in 6 straight games

Carpenter had all sorts of factors working against him as he pursued history on Saturday. Winds whipping in from center field added a degree of difficulty, as several players watched ball die on the warning track. That included a first-inning laser by Harrison Bader that, based on its exit velocity and launch angle, is a home run 92 percent of the time.

Furthermore, Carpenter didn't make his first plate appearance in Game 2 until the seventh inning. Double-switched into the game for defensive purposes, Carpenter stung a solo homer that pulled the Cardinals to within one. He later opened the three-run ninth with a walk, putting him on base for the 12th time in the series.

By the end of a long day at Wrigley Field, Carpenter's now famed salsa was making its way through the clubhouse. Bud Norris jokingly credited it for aiding in the conversion of his 18th save. Carpenter has started fielding requests for cans, too.

Tweet from @Cardinals: Before his big save, Bud Norris had some of @MattCarp13���s Secret Salsa.... we need to start producing this stuff! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/nQ9MWnYkXU

The recipe will remain a secret "in case I ever go into business," Carpenter said, though he did divulge that it's not too chunky and a bit on the sweet side. Oh, and he's packed plenty to get him through the rest of the trip.

"Now it's becoming a thing," Carpenter said. "I'm going to keep eating it until it stops happening."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

St. Louis Cardinals, Matt Carpenter

Cards rally in nightcap after Carp's record HR

DeJong atones for fielding mishap with go-ahead hit in 9th
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

CHICAGO -- Atoning for the error that left the Cardinals precariously close to falling further back in the National League Central than they had been all season, Paul DeJong delivered a ninth-inning, go-ahead RBI double to cap the club's frenetic 6-3 comeback win over the Cubs in the nightcap of Saturday's doubleheader.

The Cardinals, who dropped Game 1, 7-2, avoided the doubleheader sweep by finding renewed offensive life behind a suddenly unstoppable Matt Carpenter. After sitting on the bench for the first five innings, Carpenter entered in a double-switch and promptly homered in his sixth straight game when he came to the plate in the seventh.

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CHICAGO -- Atoning for the error that left the Cardinals precariously close to falling further back in the National League Central than they had been all season, Paul DeJong delivered a ninth-inning, go-ahead RBI double to cap the club's frenetic 6-3 comeback win over the Cubs in the nightcap of Saturday's doubleheader.

The Cardinals, who dropped Game 1, 7-2, avoided the doubleheader sweep by finding renewed offensive life behind a suddenly unstoppable Matt Carpenter. After sitting on the bench for the first five innings, Carpenter entered in a double-switch and promptly homered in his sixth straight game when he came to the plate in the seventh.

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After watching Carpenter become the first player to ever homer six times in a series at Wrigley Field, it was understandable, then, why the Cubs appeared to want no part in facing him to open the ninth inning of a tie game. Carpenter didn't bite on any of the four pitches reliever Justin Wilson threw him outside the strike zone and took a leadoff walk that sparked the game-winning rally.

Video: STL@CHC: Carpenter homers in 6th straight game

DeJong, whose sixth-inning error had opened the door for the Cubs to take a 3-1, sixth-inning lead, stung an RBI double to left. Tommy Pham's two-run double added some wiggle room for closer Bud Norris, who, pitching for the first time in a week, notched his 18th save.

The Cardinals had raced out to a quick lead behind DeJong's first-inning sacrifice fly, and starter John Gant held it through five scoreless innings. That lead evaporated upon his departure as a ground ball that DeJong should have turned into an inning-ending double play instead did not garner an out. The Cubs went on to score three times (one earned run) against reliever Greg Holland before Jordan Hicks ended the inning. Though the Cardinals' bullpen has given up 35 runs (32 earned) in a 10-game span, it did settle enough on Saturday to buy time for the offense. Sam Tuivailala and Norris followed Hicks with scoreless appearances.

Video: STL@CHC: Norris starts a double play to earn the save

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
On an evening when gusting winds were blowing in, Carpenter pushed one out to become the second player in franchise history to homer in six consecutive games. This one, like all three of his home runs on Friday, came off a left-hander, and it pulled the Cardinals to within one run. More >

SOUND SMART
Carpenter added to his list of franchise firsts with home runs in both ends of Saturday's doubleheader. He's the first Cardinals player to homer in six straight games of a single season, as well as the first to have 12 consecutive hits go for extra bases.

UP NEXT
Having skipped the All-Star festivities to return to Florida for the birth of his twins, righty Miles Mikolas rejoined the Cardinals in Chicago this weekend and will start Sunday's series finale. First pitch from Wrigley Field is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. CT. Mikolas was the lone Cardinals' starter to enter the All-Star break with a double-digit win total and enters this start with a 2.79 season ERA. He'll be opposed by lefty Jose Quintana.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

St. Louis Cardinals, Matt Carpenter, Paul DeJong

Grading Carpenter's streak with fire emojis

Matt Carpenter is so unbelievably hot right now, he just may be supernova. That's not even hyperbole as he has gone deep in six consecutive games -- with eight long balls and 12 extra base hits in total -- after homering in each game of Saturday's doubleheader against the Cubs. That puts him just two games shy of tying Dale Long, Don Mattingly, and Ken Griffey Jr. for the all-time record. 

So, how in the world are we supposed to grade that kind of heat? The way you would if you were texting with your mom: emojis. We'll be ranking each game on this streak from one flame emoji to five -- five, naturally, is best.  

C-Mart placed on DL with oblique strain

Right-hander injured in final inning of Thursday's start; Brebbia recalled; Mikolas reinstated from paternity list
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

CHICAGO -- The Cardinals will need to find two spot starters for their upcoming series in Cincinnati now that right-hander Carlos Martinez has been placed on the 10-day disabled list with a right oblique strain.

Martinez described feeling a pull in his right side when he lunged for a ground ball in the final inning of his start on Thursday. He didn't make the play and went on to allow five runs in a 28-pitch fifth inning that turned the game. Martinez assured the Cardinals that he could continue to compete, but the Cardinals opted to go ahead and move him to the DL so that they could add an extra reliever for their doubleheader on Saturday.

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CHICAGO -- The Cardinals will need to find two spot starters for their upcoming series in Cincinnati now that right-hander Carlos Martinez has been placed on the 10-day disabled list with a right oblique strain.

Martinez described feeling a pull in his right side when he lunged for a ground ball in the final inning of his start on Thursday. He didn't make the play and went on to allow five runs in a 28-pitch fifth inning that turned the game. Martinez assured the Cardinals that he could continue to compete, but the Cardinals opted to go ahead and move him to the DL so that they could add an extra reliever for their doubleheader on Saturday.

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Interim manager Mike Shildt said the club is "super optimistic" that Martinez will miss only one start.

Taking Martinez's place on the active roster Saturday was John Brebbia, who gives the Cardinals a long-relief option out of the 'pen. The Cardinals also activated starter Miles Mikolas from the paternity list, optioned reliever Matt Bowman to Triple-A and added Luke Weaver as the 26th man in a series of roster moves before the doubleheader.

Video: SD@STL: Brebbia escapes a bases-loaded jam in the 7th

Though Mikolas won't pitch until Sunday, the Cardinals were required to reinstate him 72 hours after he went on paternity leave. Mikolas, who had returned to Jupiter, Fla., for the birth of his twins on Monday, was scheduled to arrive in Chicago midday on Saturday.

The Cardinals intend to announce their pitching plans for next week following Saturday's game.

As for Martinez, he will remain with the club through the remainder of the road trip and will be eligible to return from the DL on July 30. The Cardinals did not feel the injury was severe enough to order an MRI for Martinez, though they did give him an anti-inflammatory injection on Friday to promote healing around his oblique.

"It's possible that in a different situation, we would have held off on a DL and seen how he reacted," general manager Mike Girsch said. "We're hoping it's only going to be one [missed] start."

The Cardinals characterized this oblique strain as much milder than the one that has sidelined starting pitcher Michael Wacha since June 20. Wacha has still not been cleared to begin a throwing program and is unlikely to return to the rotation until at least late August.

Martinez already missed four weeks earlier this year while nursing an injury to his right lat muscle. Since returning, he has posted a 5.32 ERA and finished six innings in just three of nine starts. The Cubs tagged him for six runs (five earned) in five innings on Thursday.

"Just rest right now and take care of myself every day," Martinez said. "It's hard for me because I want to compete. I want to help myself and help my team."

Video: STL@CHC: Carpenter notches 7 RBIs on 2 doubles, 3 HRs

Call from the Hall
The National Baseball Hall of Fame reached out to Matt Carpenter to request a donation from his historic performance on Friday afternoon. Carpenter became the first player in Major League history with five extra-base hits in the first six innings of a game, and just the second to hit three homers and two doubles.

As of Saturday morning, Carpenter was still deciding what to send to Cooperstown, N.Y. Of course, if it was hoping to procure some batting gloves, the Hall of Fame will be disappointed. Carpenter hasn't worn any for years.

The Cardinals did set aside Friday's lineup card for Carpenter to take home as a keepsake.

Minor matters
• After going 12-for-24 in eight games with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals, Cardinals second-round Draft selection Luken Baker earned a promotion to Class A Peoria (Ill.). Girsch said the Cardinals planned for Baker's GCL stint to be short, as they were treating it as a rehab assignment of sorts given that Baker was returning from a left leg and ankle injury suffered this spring at Texas Christian University.

• Injured prospect Ryan Helsley is progressing through a throwing program, Girsch said, and is expected back in a Minor League rotation soon. Helsley has been sidelined by shoulder fatigue since June 9.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

St. Louis Cardinals, Matt Bowman, John Brebbia, Carlos Martinez, Miles Mikolas

Weaver chased in 5th, 'pen falters in Game 1

Cardinals manage just 2 hits, ground into DP with bases loaded
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

CHICAGO -- An opportunity for the Cardinals to creep closer to the Cubs in the National League Central dissolved within a matter of five pitches on Saturday. The sequence saw a promising offensive opportunity quashed, to which the Cubs channeled the momentum into a two-run inning that sent things in the wrong direction for the Cardinals. They never recovered in a 7-2 loss in Game 1 of their Wrigley Field doubleheader.

The Cubs ambushed Cards starter Luke Weaver for three singles off his first four pitches in the fifth to reclaim a lead that Matt Carpenter had earlier erased with one swing. A sacrifice fly by Kyle Schwarber off reliever Mike Mayers helped the Cubs further capitalize in the frame.

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CHICAGO -- An opportunity for the Cardinals to creep closer to the Cubs in the National League Central dissolved within a matter of five pitches on Saturday. The sequence saw a promising offensive opportunity quashed, to which the Cubs channeled the momentum into a two-run inning that sent things in the wrong direction for the Cardinals. They never recovered in a 7-2 loss in Game 1 of their Wrigley Field doubleheader.

The Cubs ambushed Cards starter Luke Weaver for three singles off his first four pitches in the fifth to reclaim a lead that Matt Carpenter had earlier erased with one swing. A sacrifice fly by Kyle Schwarber off reliever Mike Mayers helped the Cubs further capitalize in the frame.

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"They play with a lot of momentum," Weaver said. "It just kind of started to unravel there a little bit. I felt like I was making some good pitches, but all day there were two hard-hit balls, and the rest of them were just barrels and finding holes."

St. Louis will never know how things may have transpired differently had the club been able to send Weaver out that inning with a lead. Though they had tallied only one hit -- Carpenter's third-inning solo homer -- all afternoon, the Cards had Cubs starter Tyler Chatwood staring at a mess after filling the bases with one out in the top of the fifth.

Video: STL@CHC: Carpenter homers in his 5th straight game

Three-hole hitter Paul DeJong worked the count into his favor at 2-0, prompting the Cubs to convene for a mound visit. On his next pitch, Chatwood induced an inning-ending double play.

Video: STL@CHC: Chatwood converts 1-2-3 double play in 5th

"That's the game," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "That's the game changer. That's the seminal moment. Was I anticipating that? No."

Not only did the Cardinals fail to capitalize on that bases-loaded chance, but they couldn't make anything out of the six walks Chatwood issued over 5 1/3 innings. One day after registering 18 hits, the Cardinals finished the day with two, none of which came in their six chances with a runner in scoring position.

Video: STL@CHC: Ozuna catches fly, nabs Baez at plate for DP

"[DeJong] puts a good swing on a pitch he can do some damage on, hits it hard and Chatwood makes a play," said Cardinals interim manager Mike Shildt. "They go back out and [get] a couple of softer hits. Big swing [in momentum]. Big swing."

The Cardinals did claw back with a run in the seventh, but their unstable bullpen once again let a close game unravel late. This time it was Tyler Lyons who was stung, as the Cubs scored four times off the lefty in the seventh inning.

The bullpen has now allowed a run in seven consecutive games and has given up 38 over the last nine games.

Video: STL@CHC: Wong makes diving stop, glove flips for out

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Trailing by two at the time, the Cardinals built a run-scoring opportunity against lefty reliever Justin Wilson in the seventh. Carpenter, who had already become the first Cardinal since 2008 to homer in five consecutive games, stepped in with two on and no outs. He worked an eight-pitch at-bat against Wilson before driving a fastball into wind gusting in from center field. Carpenter had to settle for a 393-foot out, and the Cardinals went on to score just one run in the frame.

Video: STL@CHC: Molina lifts a sac fly to left-center in 7th

"Maybe more of a traditional Wrigley kind of day with the wind," Shildt said. "DeJong crushed that ball to left [in the third inning]. [Outfielder] Schwarber is going back -- I thought it was a courtesy look -- and caught it. I was like, 'Whoa.' Carp hit the ball to right-center, another good swing. It could have been a three-run homer to win the game."

SOUND SMART
With each of his last 11 hits going for extra bases, Carpenter has tied a franchise mark set by Mark McGwire in 2001. McGwire has another record that Carpenter can lust after next, as he's is the only player in Cardinals history to homer in six consecutive games.

HE SAID IT
"It was tough weather conditions to hit the ball out unless your last name is Carpenter." -- Maddon

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
An overturned call helped the Cardinals quash a brewing rally by the Cubs in the third. After a one-out single by Ben Zobrist, Javier Baez was ruled safe at first after laying down a bunt. First-base umpire Ben May indicated that Carpenter's foot had come off the bag. The Cardinals challenged the call, however, and Baez was called out. Weaver walked the next batter before wiggling out of the inning.

Video: STL@CHC: Carpenter keeps foot on bag, call overturned

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

St. Louis Cardinals, Matt Carpenter, Luke Weaver

Carp in rare company with 3 HRs, 2 2Bs

Cards 1B makes history with 7-RBI game, ties franchise record for most leadoff homers
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

CHICAGO -- An afternoon that opened with Matt Carpenter tying Lou Brock in the record books ended with the Cardinals first baseman rewriting them.

Carpenter became the first player in franchise history -- and just the second in Major League history -- to hit three home runs and two doubles in a game. Carpenter did it all in the first six innings of Friday's game against the Cubs, too, along with scoring four runs and driving in a career-high seven. The Cardinals won, 18-5.

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CHICAGO -- An afternoon that opened with Matt Carpenter tying Lou Brock in the record books ended with the Cardinals first baseman rewriting them.

Carpenter became the first player in franchise history -- and just the second in Major League history -- to hit three home runs and two doubles in a game. Carpenter did it all in the first six innings of Friday's game against the Cubs, too, along with scoring four runs and driving in a career-high seven. The Cardinals won, 18-5.

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Until Friday, no player had ever tallied five extra-base hits before the seventh inning.

"A day to remember, for sure," Carpenter said afterward. "I'm having a hard time coming up with words to describe a day like this."

Video: STL@CHC: Cardinals on Carpenter's 3-HR, 5-hit game

Perhaps historical context will help.

On the 14-year anniversary of Albert Pujols' first three-homer performance at Wrigley Field, Carpenter became the first Cardinals leadoff hitter to go deep three times in a game. He's the 11th player in the past 110 years to tally five extra-base hits and the first to do so from the leadoff spot.

Carpenter's 16 total bases are also a record for a leadoff batter, breaking the mark of 15 set by the Dodgers' Davey Lopes at Wrigley Field on Aug. 20, 1974. The feat ties the Cardinals record set by Mark Whiten in his memorable four-homer game on Sept. 7, 1993. Carpenter now has two games this season of at least 12 total bases, the first time that's been accomplished by a Cards player since Pujols in 2006.

Video: STL@CIN: Whiten hits four home runs in one game

Carpenter became the first Cardinals leadoff hitter since Augie Bergamo in 1945 to drive in seven runs, and he tied Brock's franchise record with his 21st career leadoff homer. It was his sixth this season, establishing a single-season franchise record.

Carpenter joins Chicago's Kris Bryant as the only players in baseball history with a three-homer, two-double game.

Video: CHC@CIN: Bryant makes history with five hits vs. Reds

"It's so impressive, and you take in the fact with how he started the year," said Bryant, who started at third base for the Cubs on Friday. "I think it was 150 at-bats, and he was at [a] .150 [batting average]. Now he's turned it around. It's fun to see. It stinks when it's against us, but he's a heck of a player. Now, there's two of us. He's a pretty cool guy to share it with."

Carpenter's year got off to an inauspicious start, as he slashed .140/.286/.272 in his first 140 plate appearances. Since then, Carpenter has pulled his season OPS up to .958 by hitting .346/.435/.738.

Carpenter began his historic performance by stinging Cubs starter Jon Lester with his third leadoff homer in the team's past four games. An inning later, Carpenter stretched the Cardinals' lead by blasting another two-out pitch from Lester, this one landing 421 feet away. Carpenter had entered the game 7-for-50 with one home run in his career against Lester.

Carpenter tallied both of his doubles during the Cardinals' seven-run fourth, and he secured his first career three-homer game after deciding during the top of the sixth to take one more at-bat before finishing out the day as a spectator. He has now homered in four straight games for the first time in his career.

Video: STL@CHC: Shildt on Carpenter's 5-hit, 3-HR game

Since Statcast™ started tracking launch angle in 2015, no player had previously hit three home runs in a game with a launch angle greater than 35 degrees until Friday. Carpenter's final home run had a launch angle of 49 degrees, which is tied for the second-highest on a home run in the past four years. The ball had a 2-percent hit probability.

All five of Carpenter's hits had an exit velocity of 95-plus mph, and four of them came with two strikes. The exception was his third home run, which came when Carpenter ambushed a first-pitch fastball from Brian Duensing. Carpenter, who had hit 16 of his first 20 homers off righties, connected for all three on Friday against left-handed pitchers.

"Just a joy to watch and be a part of it," interim manager Mike Shildt said. "That's a special day."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

St. Louis Cardinals, Matt Carpenter

Carp crushes 3 HRs as Cards rout rival Cubs

MLB.com @LangoschMLB

CHICAGO -- The constant in Mike Shildt's lineup became the catalyst on Friday afternoon as Matt Carpenter delivered one of the best single-game performances in franchise history to help the Cardinals roll over the Cubs, 18-5, at Wrigley Field.

While Shildt shuffled several players around to form a new-look lineup upon taking over as interim manager, the top spot in the order never ceased to belong to Carpenter. Shildt wanted the offense to follow his lead.

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CHICAGO -- The constant in Mike Shildt's lineup became the catalyst on Friday afternoon as Matt Carpenter delivered one of the best single-game performances in franchise history to help the Cardinals roll over the Cubs, 18-5, at Wrigley Field.

While Shildt shuffled several players around to form a new-look lineup upon taking over as interim manager, the top spot in the order never ceased to belong to Carpenter. Shildt wanted the offense to follow his lead.

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That was done en masse Friday once Carpenter jolted the unit to life with his franchise-record 21st career leadoff home run. The Cardinals went on to bat around in two innings while tallying a season high in runs and hits to pull to within 7 1/2 games of their National League Central rivals.

Video: STL@CHC: Shildt on Carpenter's 5-hit, 3-HR game

"If you look at a lot of quality teams, the top of your lineup is going to table-set and be productive," Shildt said. "In this case, [Carpenter] is doing damage, too. Get a guy on base who has good at-bats, it starts the game off right."

Carpenter joined Chicago's Kris Bryant as the only players in Major League history to hit three home runs and two doubles in a game. And Carpenter is the first to notch five extra-base hits in the first six innings. Carpenter finished with five hits, seven RBIs and four runs scored before being pulled before the bottom of the sixth. He had the club's first three-homer game since 2010, when Albert Pujols hit a trio of home runs -- also at Wrigley Field.

Video: Must C Classic: Carpenter slugs 3 homers, 2 doubles

"I told him I'll give him $1,000 for that day," said Tommy Pham, whose offer was declined. "He had a great day today. That's amazing."

Production was plentiful around Carpenter, too. Every position player in the starting lineup reached base at least twice, and six players drove in a run during the seven-run fourth that turned the game into a rout.

The Cardinals even received a home run from two players (Greg Garcia and Yairo Munoz) who entered the game following Carpenter's departure. Both of those blasts came after the Cubs had waved the white flag by sending position players in to pitch.

Video: STL@CHC: Garcia lifts a solo home run to right field

The Cardinals finished with a season-high 18 hits, and they have now scored at least a half-dozen runs in every game Shildt has managed. It's the first time this season the club has done so in three consecutive games. The Cards hadn't scored 18 runs in a game since Aug. 22, 2008.

"I'm having a hard time coming up with words to describe a day like this," Carpenter said after the second five-hit game of his career. "I think, more importantly -- and I don't want it to get lost in the shuffle -- that we beat a really good team today against a really good starting pitcher who is having a great season. I think it would be a disservice to our club if we don't acknowledge the great team effort that we were able to do, offensively, against a great team. I'm really happy with the way that played out."

Video: STL@CHC: Munoz's 2-run HR spills fan's drink in 8th

The flurry of run support helped starter Jack Flaherty to a victory in his first career outing at Wrigley Field. Before the game got out of hand, he worked out of a bases-loaded jam with consecutive strikeouts of Javier Baez and Willson Contreras in the third. Flaherty finished with nine strikeouts in his five-inning appearance.

"Jack -- for me, the way he goes about it -- is mature beyond his years," Shildt said. "He's got a slower heart rate based on what he does, and he used it well there. He could've gotten sped up and let the game get sped up on him, but he actually slowed down and got refocused and started executing more. That's a really good trait."

Video: STL@CHC: Flaherty strikes out 9, allows just 2 hits

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The chance to chase Mark Whiten's franchise record four-homer game dissolved in the sixth when Carpenter and Shildt mutually agreed to end Carpenter's day after his third home run. In fact, Carpenter was ready to exit prior to that final at-bat, but he decided to take one more once it became an RBI opportunity.

"Obviously, I didn't even realize at the time that it was anything historic or anything crazy," Carpenter said. "And honestly, if I take that last at-bat, it's going to be versus a position player, and there's not a lot of glory in that anyways. I'm fine with it."

"We've got a doubleheader tomorrow, and we've just come out of the break and had a long day," added Shildt. "After he hit that three-run homer, it just felt right for him and for us. It could've been even more historic, but that was a pretty good day."

Video: STL@CHC: Cardinals on Carpenter's 3-HR, 5-hit game

SOUND SMART
Carpenter's monstrous afternoon came 14 years to the date after Pujols had 15 total bases in another three-homer game at Wrigley Field. With 16 total bases on Friday, Carpenter tied Whiten's franchise record.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Having already become just the sixth player in Cardinals history to have two doubles and two homers in a game, Carpenter assured that he'd sit alone in the record books when he blasted a three-run homer off Brian Duensing in the sixth. The homer was as unlikely as any Carpenter has hit, as it had the second-highest launch angle (49 degrees) of any homer since 2015. The ball had a hit probability of 2 percent, according to Statcast™.

Video: STL@CHC: Carpenter clubs 3-run jack for 3rd homer

"You know, when I hit it, I knew that I barreled it. But I knew I hit it super high," Carpenter said. "Off the bat, I initially was like, 'Ah, just missed it or just got under it.' But I looked up at the flags, and it was a windy day and [thought] it might have a chance. [Right fielder Jason] Heyward just drifted and drifted and drifted, and obviously, it fell in the basket. It was quite a thrill."

HE SAID IT
"It stinks when it's against us, but he's a heck of a player. Now, there's two of us. He's a pretty cool guy to share it with." -- Bryant, who had his historic three-homer, two-double day two years ago in Cincinnati

UP NEXT
The Cardinals will play their first doubleheader of the season on Saturday, with games at 12:05 p.m. CT and 6:05 p.m. at Wrigley Field. Luke Weaver (5-8, 4.72 ERA) will be recalled to start Game 1 of the twin bill against righty Tyler Chatwood (3-5, 5.04 ERA). John Gant (3-3, 3.49 ERA) is slated to oppose lefty Mike Montgomery (3-3, 3.91 ERA) in the nightcap.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

St. Louis Cardinals, Matt Carpenter, Jack Flaherty, Greg Garcia, Yairo Munoz

Shildt standing behind Fowler despite struggles

Outfielder tallies RBI double in Cardinals' four-run 2nd inning
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

CHICAGO -- Cognizant that his actions will carry more weight than any promise he makes, interim manager Mike Shildt made his strongest statement yet about his commitment to outfielder Dexter Fowler by starting him against Cubs lefty Jon Lester on Friday.

With right-handed-hitting outfielder Harrison Bader available, Shildt instead stood behind Fowler, who has started all three games since Mike Matheny's dismissal. Friday's start was arguably the most surprising, given that Fowler has just four hits -- only one of which went for extra bases -- in 46 at-bats against lefties this season.

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CHICAGO -- Cognizant that his actions will carry more weight than any promise he makes, interim manager Mike Shildt made his strongest statement yet about his commitment to outfielder Dexter Fowler by starting him against Cubs lefty Jon Lester on Friday.

With right-handed-hitting outfielder Harrison Bader available, Shildt instead stood behind Fowler, who has started all three games since Mike Matheny's dismissal. Friday's start was arguably the most surprising, given that Fowler has just four hits -- only one of which went for extra bases -- in 46 at-bats against lefties this season.

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Furthermore, Fowler was 3-for-18 in his career against Lester, and he was coming off an 0-for-5 performance in Thursday's series opener. Shildt shuffled those numbers aside, and he received instant payoff when Fowler lined an RBI double into the left-field corner in his first at-bat of Friday afternoon's 18-5 win over the Cubs. Fowler finished the day with two RBIs, two hits -- both off lefties -- and two runs scored.

"I think it's important for everybody, including Dexter, to give him an opportunity," Shildt said. "Listen, he had a nice year for us last year. This game is hard. People struggle in it. He's going to get an opportunity to go out there and play. I think it is going to help him, knowing he's going to get that chance. We will evaluate it. I've got no expectation other than he's going to do just fine."

Video: STL@CHC: Fowler plates Gyorko on a sac fly to center

Fowler returned from the All-Star break hoping to bury an unproductive first half in which he posted a slash line of .176/.270/.297 over 74 games. Playing time had been unpredictable and inconsistent over the past several weeks, which is why Shildt sought to assure Fowler that he would be given ample opportunity to turn his season around.

That starts, Shildt said, by giving Fowler at-bats.

"I've had good dialogue with Dex as a bench coach as well," Shildt said. "Part of the role as a bench coach is to create relationships, which is serving me well in this capacity now. One thing that I've expressed to him is, 'Listen, you're going to get your opportunities to play. I want you to get out there and just go about it the way you've always gone about it. Trust your ability and just enjoy it. Go play and know that you're going to be back to where you know you can, and you're going to get the opportunity to do so.'"

Video: STL@ARI: Gomber induces 6-4-3 DP, works out of jam

Worth noting

• The Cardinals will wait until after Saturday's doubleheader to reveal who still start Monday's series opener against the Reds. By postponing the announcement, the club can see how much its pitching staff is stretched in the doubleheader and ensure that weather doesn't change its plans. Lefty Austin Gomber, who started for Triple-A Memphis on Wednesday, is a leading candidate to receive the summons.

• Memphis starter Dakota Hudson will not be the choice, though he lowered his ERA to 2.36 by allowing one run over 6 1/3 innings on Thursday. Hudson, who struck out eight and walked one, leads the Pacific Coast League with 13 wins.

• Though he won't be added to the roster until Saturday, Luke Weaver rejoined the Cardinals in Chicago on Friday. He will be added as the 26th player for Saturday's doubleheader, and he is scheduled to start the first game. John Gant will take the mound in Game 2.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

St. Louis Cardinals, Dexter Fowler

Baker stays hot in GCL

MLB.com @wboor

Here's MLB Pipeline's roundup of the top prospect performances in the Minor Leagues on Friday.

Pirates prospects Bryan Reynolds and Will Craig put on an impressive power display as the duo led Double-A Altoona to a 10-8 win over Reading.

Here's MLB Pipeline's roundup of the top prospect performances in the Minor Leagues on Friday.

Pirates prospects Bryan Reynolds and Will Craig put on an impressive power display as the duo led Double-A Altoona to a 10-8 win over Reading.

:: Complete prospect coverage ::

Reynolds, the Pirates' No. 5 prospect, and Craig (No. 15) each homered twice, including back-to-back blasts in the seventh.

Craig, who has put together three straight two-hit games after going 2-for-4 with four RBIs, got the scoring started with a three-run homer in the third. Reynolds' first homer of the day came an inning later, when he hit a two-run blast out to right.

In the seventh, the duo put the finishing touches on their big nights as they went back-to-back -- Reynolds then Craig -- to lead off the frame.

Reynolds, Craig go back-to-back

The multihomer games were career firsts for the 2016 Draft picks, who now have three (Reynolds) and 16 (Craig) homers on the year.

Other top prospect performances from Friday's action:

No. 2 overall prospect Eloy Jimenez (White Sox No. 1) turned in the fifth two-homer game of his career and his second of the season in a monster performance with Triple-A Charlotte. The 21-year-old, who finished 3-for-5, did all of his damage right out of the gate, collecting hits in each of his first three at-bats. Jimenez hit a solo homer in the first, came through with an RBI double in the third and then went deep again in the fifth.

Jimenez goes deep

• No. 11 overall prospect Royce Lewis (Twins' No. 1) set a career high with five RBIs for Class A Advanced Fort Myers. Lewis, who is hitting .357 through seven games since being promoted to the Miracle, hit his 10th homer of the season - a three-run blast - as part of his 2-for-5 night.

• No. 25 overall prospect Kyle Wright (Braves' No. 2) picked up the win after spinning his third straight quality start for Double-A Mississippi. Wright, who yielded just one run on two hits, threw 53 of his 81 pitches for strikes. The 2017 first-round Draft pick issued one walk and struck out five as he lowered his ERA to 3.91 and cruised through seven innings.

• No. 56 overall prospect Julio Pablo Martinez (Rangers' No. 3) homered in his third straight game with Class A Short Season Spokane. Martinez, 22, hit a two-run homer in the second inning, giving him six homers through 27 games with the Indians. He finished 2-for-4.

Brewers No. 6 prospect Corey Ray did a little bit of everything for Double-A Biloxi. The 23-year-old showed off his 60-grade speed on multiple occasions as he stole two bases and hit an inside the park homer. Ray, who also doubled and scored a run, finished 3-for-4 and has hits in nine of his last 11 games.

Ray's inside-the-park homer

Orioles No. 14 prospect Cameron Bishop spun his third scoreless start of the season for Class A Delmarva. The lefty, who threw 43 of his 64 pitches for strikes, matched his season high with eight strikeouts without walking a batter. Bishop yielded just three hits and has now given up two earned runs or less in seven straight starts, lowering his ERA to 2.74 through 17 starts (101 2/3 innings this season).

Tigers No. 23 prospect Matt Hall, who made 23 appearances out of the bullpen to begin the season, recorded double-digit strikeouts for the second time in five starts this year. Hall threw a season-high 104 pitches (67 strikes) over six innings of one-run ball. The left-hander stuck out 10, issued one walk and worked his way around seven hits for Triple-A Toledo.

Reds No. 4 prospect Tony Santillan has been dominant since being promoted to Double-A Pensacola. The right-hander, who threw six scoreless innings, is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA through three starts with the Blue Wahoos after posting a 2.70 ERA through 15 starts with Class A Advanced Daytona. Santillan didn't issue a walk in his outing, struck out six and gave up five hits while throwing 55 of his 80 pitches for strikes. In addition to keeping runs off the board, Santillan has also posted an impressive 18-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio since his promotion.

• Luken Baker, whom the Cardinals selected with the 75th overall pick in the 2018 Draft, drove in a trio of runs as part of a 2-for-4 performance in the Rookie-level GCL. After going hitless in his professional debut, Baker has hits in seven straight games and is slashing an impressive .500/.536/.708.

• Hunter Stovall, the Rockies 21st-round selection from the 2018 Draft, has been consistently hitting the ball out of the yard for Rookie-level Grand Junction. Stovall went just 1-for-4 at the plate, but has gone deep in three straight games and has hit five homers through the first 10 games of his professional career.

Stovall goes yard

William Boor is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.

Mozeliak: Cards 'don't envision' trading pitchers

MLB.com @LangoschMLB

CHICAGO -- As others speculate about Carlos Martinez's potential availability at the Trade Deadline, Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak downplayed the likelihood that the team would deal Martinez or any of the other high-end pitchers they hope to build around.

"For us, the one core we have is pitching," Mozeliak said before Thursday's series opener at Wrigley Field. "And to start trying to arbitrage that would have to be a very special-type deal, otherwise it would make no sense to us. None of that has presented itself to me. No one has called me with any great ideas that way. One of the responsibilities is us looking at potential trades, potential partners, but nothing that I've looked at would make sense in that regard. I don't envision us moving pitching."

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CHICAGO -- As others speculate about Carlos Martinez's potential availability at the Trade Deadline, Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak downplayed the likelihood that the team would deal Martinez or any of the other high-end pitchers they hope to build around.

"For us, the one core we have is pitching," Mozeliak said before Thursday's series opener at Wrigley Field. "And to start trying to arbitrage that would have to be a very special-type deal, otherwise it would make no sense to us. None of that has presented itself to me. No one has called me with any great ideas that way. One of the responsibilities is us looking at potential trades, potential partners, but nothing that I've looked at would make sense in that regard. I don't envision us moving pitching."

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To move Martinez, in particular, would require the Cardinals to be overwhelmed by the return. Including the two option years on Martinez's contract, the Cardinals have the 26-year-old locked up for another five seasons at $69.5 million. It's a reasonable cost for a player who, since becoming a permanent member of the rotation in 2014, has posted a 3.22 ERA and .600 winning percentage.

As far as what the Cardinals might do before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, Mozeliak, for the second time this week, responded with the succinct answer of "TBD."

"I think we're going to take that day by day," Mozeliak continued. "You can't just make a knee-jerk reaction to say we did something. I definitely think how we play over the next 10, 11 days could definitely move the needle in how we think about it."

The Cardinals' schedule has something to do with that. Though they opened the second half 7.5 games behind the Cubs in the National League Central, the Cards have an opportunity to make a serious dent in that deficit. Eight of their first 11 games out of the break come against the Cubs.

St. Louis is also bunched up among eight clubs in the Wild Card race. Only 6.5 games separate the top and bottom of that group.

Mozeliak is open to being nudged in one direction or another should the Cardinals open this second half with a statement under interim manager Mike Shildt. They'll never succumb to being a seller, but there would be a different calculus depending upon whether the Cardinals decide to buy for this year or for the future.

"I think we feel like we've been kind of straddling the fence a little bit, if you will, looking at what a pursuit might look like versus also what it might look like to move a player," Mozeliak said. "Again, [we] haven't made any concrete decisions on what it's going to look like, but we're going to remain open-minded."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

St. Louis Cardinals, Carlos Martinez

Shildt's tweaks bear fruit, but Cards fall short

Molina has 4 hits in 2-hole; Pham goes deep batting 8th
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

CHICAGO -- Mike Shildt's first bold statement as interim manager came not in what he said, but rather in what he wrote.

As part of the reset the Cardinals initiated with last weekend's managerial change, Shildt has workshopped a lineup that he believes will showcase commitment, prioritize stability and enhance the defense. Thursday's 9-6 loss to open a five-game series against the Cubs exposed some flaws in the design, though that's not likely to push Shildt to abandon one of his first key decisions since taking over for Mike Matheny.

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CHICAGO -- Mike Shildt's first bold statement as interim manager came not in what he said, but rather in what he wrote.

As part of the reset the Cardinals initiated with last weekend's managerial change, Shildt has workshopped a lineup that he believes will showcase commitment, prioritize stability and enhance the defense. Thursday's 9-6 loss to open a five-game series against the Cubs exposed some flaws in the design, though that's not likely to push Shildt to abandon one of his first key decisions since taking over for Mike Matheny.

View Full Game Coverage

"You also have to make sure guys know that you are with them," Shildt said prior to the second-half opener. "That's part of the composition of the lineup."

A middle-of-the-order presence under Matheny, Yadier Molina tallied a career-high four hits -- and sparked the Cardinals' first run-scoring opportunity -- as the club's new two-hole hitter. Tommy Pham, a fixture near the top of the order all season, dropped down to the eighth spot, where he had a three-hit game and tattooed a changeup 433 feet onto Waveland Ave. in the second inning.

Video: STL@CHC: Wong singles home DeJong in 9th

The Cardinals' offensive production -- which included a pair of two-out RBI hits from Kolten Wong, who has hit sixth in Shildt's first two games as manager -- was sustained throughout the evening. They chased Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks in the fifth, scored in six frames and finished with 15 hits.

"I don't want to put a blind eye to this game, but also draw out some real positives from it in that you're talking about a lineup that got turned over several times," Shildt said. "I'm really optimistic about the at-bats we had and the execution."

The problem was that the Cubs were the ones to tally the big inning.

Video: STL@CHC: Cubs score 5 in 5th, anchored by Happ's HR

A 3-1 lead evaporated in the fifth when Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez, who relied more heavily than usual on his changeup, gave up five runs on as many hits. Ian Happ blasted a two-run homer off the righty, and a series of defensive blunders complicated his night.

That fifth inning opened with the first of two errors by shortstop Paul DeJong. The Cardinals finished with their eighth three-error game of the season.

"It wasn't the cleanest game," said third baseman Jedd Gyorko, whose third-inning miscue led to an unearned run. "Obviously, I have to set the tone right there and make a play. We're better than what we threw out there today."

Video: STL@CHC: Bryant reaches on Gyorko's fielding error

Cleaning up the defense was an impetus for some of Shildt's changes -- most notably in nudging Jose Martinez out of an everyday role. Shildt has talked to Martinez about the change, as the organization evaluates whether he might best fit as a trade chip this month.

"Right now, that asset could be a great bat off the bench," president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. "Obviously, long term, that is something we need to think through."

Martinez's diminished role opens up more regular opportunities for Gyorko and Dexter Fowler, both of whom have started two straight games under Shildt. The pair combined to go 1-for-9 on Thursday.

Igniting the offense and stabilizing the defense will only take the Cardinals so far if they can't also fix the bullpen. A club that now trails the Cubs by 8 1/2 games in the National League Central increased the difficulty of their attempted comeback by allowing Chicago to tack on three late-inning runs. Those proved to be the difference.

Video: STL@CHC: Pham scores on Russell's throwing error

Cardinals relievers have been knocked around for 31 runs in the team's last seven games.

"When you're facing a team like Chicago, you have to bring your 'A' game," Molina said. "We didn't bring the 'A' game tonight, defensively or on the pitching side."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Seeking to both neutralize and fool a Cubs offense that was familiar with his arsenal, Martinez attacked the Cubs with a heavy dose of changeups and cutters, one of which he would like back. With an opportunity to limit the damage in the fifth, Martinez threw a 1-2 cutter that Happ deposited over the wall in right-center. The home run, which put the Cubs ahead by three, was just the fifth allowed by Martinez in 17 starts this season.

"I was trying to go off the plate," Martinez said. "But that pitch didn't cut much and came in straight."

Video: STL@CHC: Happ blasts a 2-run homer to right-center

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Seeking to shelve the struggles of a disappointing first half, Pham enjoyed some instant results from the work he did over the All-Star break to correct the mechanics of his swing. He obliterated a 79.1-mph changeup from Hendricks for his second home run in a month's span. With an exit velocity of 107.5 mph, the homer was Pham's third-hardest hit this year.

Video: STL@CHC: Pham crushes a home run 433 feet at Wrigley

SOUND SMART
Before Thursday, the Cardinals had won 32 consecutive games in which they notched at least 14 hits. Their last loss in such a game came on Sept. 2, 2015, against the Nationals.

HE SAID IT
"This is clearly a big weekend, but they are all big weekends. I don't get too concerned about the opponent. The opponent is the opponent. We show up and really it's about how we play. And if we play the best version of ourselves, we take the results and feel good about it." -- Shildt, when asked about the club's first five-game series at Wrigley Field since September 2003

UP NEXT
The Cardinals' five-game series against the Cubs will continue on Friday as right-hander Jack Flaherty (3-4, 3.24 ERA) opposes lefty Jon Lester (12-2, 2.58 ERA) in a 1:20 p.m. CT matchup. Flaherty, who threw five scoreless innings in his final start of the first half, will be making his first career appearance at Wrigley Field.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

St. Louis Cardinals, Yadier Molina, Tommy Pham