ST. LOUIS -- The season-long search for Matt Carpenter's swing culminated last week in Minnesota, in a batting cage in the bowels of Target Field. After weeks of trying to tweak, tamper and claw his way out of the depths of a suffocating slump, Carpenter turned to hitting coach John
ST. LOUIS -- The season-long search for Matt Carpenter's swing culminated last week in Minnesota, in a batting cage in the bowels of Target Field. After weeks of trying to tweak, tamper and claw his way out of the depths of a suffocating slump, Carpenter turned to hitting coach John Mabry with relief. Mabry then offered Cardinals manager Mike Matheny an encouraging report.
"He's close," Mabry said.
Flash forward to Monday night, and Mabry's intel checks out. Carpenter's swing appears cured from the sluggishness that defined the start of his season after notching three more hits in the Cards' 6-0 win over the Royals, his second three-hit game in as many nights.
Carpenter doubled to right-center in the first, singled the other way in the third and hammered a solo homer to right in the seventh of the I-70 Series opener at Busch Stadium. He's now 13-for-24 with seven doubles in six games since hitting .140 over his first 39 games.
"I wish I could say there was some dramatic overhaul, but it's just the game of baseball," Carpenter said. "It's a game of confidence. When you're looking like you don't have much at the plate, things can snowball on you. One week later, you feel like you're on top of the world."
Perplexed at the severity of his slump -- the worst of Carpenter's eight-year career by any statistical measure -- Carpenter exhausted all avenues looking for the root of it. He consulted the club's analytics department, which produced reams of data imploring Carpenter to stay the course. The metrics pegged Carpenter as one of the unluckiest hitters in baseball over the season's first month. But as April dissolved into May, Carpenter didn't just stop hitting into hard outs. He ceased hitting the ball hard much at all, while strikeouts mounted. Hence the snowball references.
The antidote came after Matheny imposed a "mental reset" on Carpenter, sitting him three out of four games over the course of a weekend in San Diego. A few days after, what eluded Carpenter for so long refound him in that cage in Minnesota. He found that "feel."
"That day he and Mabry were talking he said, 'I think I got it,'" Matheny said. "You can't sit in front of a video monitor and find it. I can't believe the guy hasn't gone half blind with how much he stares at the video monitor. But you have to find that feel. And it's clicked. There is no easy pill. There is no quick fix. There are some reminders. Then you get confidence. And that's where Matt is right now."
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.