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Carpenter cranks 29th blast, tied atop NL HR list

MLB.com @LangoschMLB

PITTSBURGH -- Matt Carpenter continues to jockey with Colorado's Nolan Arenado for the National League lead in home runs, with both players connecting for their 29th of the season on Sunday.

Though Carpenter's lead over Arenado lasted only a few hours, the fact that he is anywhere near the top of that leaderboard represents yet another remarkable feat given where his season started. Through his first 40 games, Carpenter was slugging .351 with three home runs. He's hit 26 in 67 games since, while slugging a Major League-best .722.

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PITTSBURGH -- Matt Carpenter continues to jockey with Colorado's Nolan Arenado for the National League lead in home runs, with both players connecting for their 29th of the season on Sunday.

Though Carpenter's lead over Arenado lasted only a few hours, the fact that he is anywhere near the top of that leaderboard represents yet another remarkable feat given where his season started. Through his first 40 games, Carpenter was slugging .351 with three home runs. He's hit 26 in 67 games since, while slugging a Major League-best .722.

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"It's been quite the turnaround," Carpenter said. "It's just a crazy stretch. I really don't have much thought behind it other than I'm just trying to hit the ball hard. I'm really not trying to hit home runs. It just happens. I'm getting good pitches, putting good swings on them. I never would have thought I'd be where I am right now, but if I keep putting good at-bats together, good things will happen."

Carpenter's 363-foot blast off Pittsburgh's Trevor Williams on Sunday was also integral in the outcome. It broke a scoreless tie and sparked a two-run inning that lifted St. Louis to a 2-1 victory and third consecutive series win.

"When you have that guy leading off where you could start the game every time on the road, 1-0, it's a really good feeling," starter Jack Flaherty said. "He's been unbelievable. He's going to continue to be that."

The Pirates sought to minimize Carpenter's presence all series by intentionally walking him three separate times. Still, Carpenter reached base nine times, scored four runs and drove in three. He entered the afternoon 6-for-13 with two homers against Williams.

Carpenter established a new personal single-season best with the home run, which also extended the Majors' longest active on-base streak to 24 games. He leads MLB with 19 road homers, 25 solo home runs and eight leadoff blasts. The reigning NL Player of the Month homered in all three games of this series and has 12 home runs in his last 20 games.

Albert Pujols, with 42 home runs in 2010, was the last Cardinals player to lead the league in homers. Carpenter has more than twice as many home runs as any of his teammates.

"From a reference point of where he was starting, man, what an impressive guy," said interim manager Mike Shildt. "[He's] taking quality at-bats. Carp is an elite hitter."

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