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One-two punch: Carpenter, Fowler clicking

With players locked in respectively atop order, Cards feeling rejuvenated effects
MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- When discussing the various machinations of his batting order before Tuesday night's 8-1, 11-inning win over the Phillies, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny corrected a reporter who noted that Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler seem to have settled nicely into their new roles as one- and two-hitters.

"There's two ones," Matheny said, proud that he has the luxury to begin every game, and every trip through the order, with two leadoff-caliber hitters.

PHILADELPHIA -- When discussing the various machinations of his batting order before Tuesday night's 8-1, 11-inning win over the Phillies, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny corrected a reporter who noted that Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler seem to have settled nicely into their new roles as one- and two-hitters.

"There's two ones," Matheny said, proud that he has the luxury to begin every game, and every trip through the order, with two leadoff-caliber hitters.

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When St. Louis needed its leadoff duo to set the table, which they've done exceptionally well as of late, they cashed in, each walking and scoring to kick-start a near record-breaking seven-run 11th inning. Carpenter also added an RBI double in the frame.

According to Elias, the Cards fell two runs shy of the record for 11th-inning runs, nine, set by the Padres on June 28, 1994.

"That's the name of the game, getting on," Fowler said.

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The biggest reason for the Cardinals' current offensive spike is direct production from Carpenter and Fowler who, in their last three and a half series, have hit leadoff and second, respectively.

Back in the familiar leadoff role that he excelled in last season, Carpenter is slashing .400/.542/.933, good for a 1.476 OPS that, entering Tuesday, would have ranked second in baseball in that stretch. Since becoming the everyday two-hitter, Fowler is hitting .367 with a 1.041 OPS.

In that time, Carpenter has raised his batting average by 36 points and his OPS by 131. Fowler has raised his average by 27 points and his OPS by 90.

"It looks like they're just grinding through those at-bats, that's the only way I can describe it. ... They're seeing the ball so well," Matheny said.

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Carpenter began the season in an unfamiliar place, the three-hole, after the organization lost Matt Holliday to free agency this offseason. For the first five seasons of his tenure in St. Louis, Matheny could count on penciling Holliday into the three spot. In Holliday's absence, Matheny turned to the club's best and most proven slugger to fill the void and moved Fowler up to leadoff.

But Carpenter didn't take to his new role, hitting just .226 while batting third. Fowler didn't settle in either, as he hit just .216 leading off in 48 starts.

During a four-game series in Cincinnati earlier this month, with the team mired in an offensive rut, Matheny tried something new. Well, technically, it was something old. Carpenter moved back to leadoff, with Fowler slotted behind him.

Carpenter, Fowler, and the Cardinals' offense have surged ever since. In the 23 games before the switch -- which began with Carpenter back at No. 1 on June 7, then Fowler following him at No. 2 a day later -- the Cards scored over six runs one time and averaged just over three runs per game. Since the move, they've averaged two and a half runs more per contest.

"It certainly has worked for us," Carpenter said. "[Fowler has] been swinging the bat as well. Anything to get our offense clicking is a good thing."

In Matheny's eyes, those top two hitters are infectious pacesetters.

"It does become contagious for the rest of the team," he said. "It's hard to deny it, so I'm not going to mess with it now."

Ben Harris is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia.