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Carpenter shows signs of returning to form

ST. LOUIS -- Matt Carpenter does not need to work longer hours, his manager insists. In fact, Mike Matheny recently threatened -- jokingly, of course -- to fine Carpenter for every minute early he showed up to the ballpark.

Instead, coaxing the Cardinals third baseman back to his early season ways at the plate is a matter of Carpenter working smarter, not harder, Matheny said before Thursday's 5-3, 11-inning loss to the Padres at Busch Stadium.

"He's just got to breathe a little bit, trust himself and get himself right instead of get to work," Matheny said. "He's going to be fine. He's going to be right where he needs to be, there's no doubt in my mind.

"I see Carp real close."

Matheny's words served as an appropriate foreword to Thursday's game, a contest that suggested the end of Carpenter's sluggish hitting could indeed be in view.

Carpenter reached base four times, snapping a 3-for-30 stretch by contributing an RBI single in the fifth and a leadoff single in the ninth that St. Louis ultimately squandered.

"Good swings, too," Matheny said. "Just not trying to do too much. I think he's trying to walk before run right now and find a good stroke that's throwing some singles out there, knowing that once he feels in a good rhythm, then the extra bases are going to come."

Video: [email protected]: Matheny on extra-innings loss to the Padres

Neither of Carpenter's hits jumped off the bat like so many did in his first 27 games, but they found the center-field grass and sparked a lineup that has missed the consistent run-production Carpenter gave it at the beginning of the season.

Carpenter batted .333 in his first 27 games, with 20 of his 36 hits going for extra bases before he sat out four games in May with extreme fatigue. After Thursday's 2-for-4 game, the Cardinals' two-hole hitter is hitting .241 in 45 games since returning, and just 10 of his 38 hits have gone for extra bases.

"You're going to see less is more for him for a while," Matheny said. "Then the power will be there."

That goes for both Carpenter's approach at the plate, and the hours he is putting in behind the scenes.

"He knows that we get it that he's working," Matheny said. "I think all of us, if something's not going well at work, our tendency is to make sure everybody knows that we're trying. That's checked [for Carpenter]. That box has been checked for a long time."

David Cobb is an associate reporter for
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