CHICAGO -- To hear Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter tell it, he's either right there or a world away. The timing comes and goes, at-bat to at-bat, sometimes even in smaller intervals.
"On some pitches I feel like I'm on it," Carpenter said. "And others where I'm not."
All of this allowed Carpenter to consider his performance on Tuesday progress. Much of the night mirrored the strange start to his season, which has been chock-full of swings-and-misses, productive takes and little else. But in between he added some thump, his three RBIs proving the difference in the Cardinals' 5-3 win over the Cubs.
"Today was definitely a step in the right direction," he said.
Put simply, what Carpenter wants to be is a run-producer who doesn't sink with two strikes. And when the Cardinals and Cubs rekindled their storied rivalry on a frigid night at Wrigley Field, he was. Still slotted in the three-hole despite beginning the night with a .160 batting average through 15 games, Carpenter paced a Cardinals offense that struck out 14 times, with two two-strike hits.
His RBI double off losing pitcher Tyler Chatwood opened the scoring in the second, and his two-run single off reliever Brian Duensing provided much-needed insurance in the eighth. Adam Wainwright spun and cut his way through five effective innings in between to earn his first win, and Bud Norris notched a five-out save, sending St. Louis to its fifth consecutive victory on a night when the elements took center stage.
"It was a little chilly," manager Mike Matheny said, chuckling.
The 116th year of play between the Cardinals and Cubs commenced with a game in which the air was cold, the bats slow and the baseballs tough to control. Game-time temperatures in the 30s, with a wind chill in the 20s, had hitters griping about feeling they were "swinging underwater." The starting pitchers combined to walk 11, with Chatwood issuing seven of those free passes. The two teams combined to strike out 23 and walk 16.
Wainwright had to go back to 2006 when trying to recall a colder game.
"Pretty dang cold," Wainwright said. "But once you get out there, you're hot."
Wainwright exited with a one-run lead that stood until Paul DeJong's solo home run off Pedro Strop pulled the Cardinals further ahead in the eighth. Carpenter capped the inning's three-run rally with his two-run single off Duensing before Javier Baez hit a two-run homer in the bottom half of the inning off Greg Holland.
That set the stage for Norris, who struck out three in recording the first five-out save of his career and the first by a Cardinals closer since 2016. In place of Holland, Norris improved to 4-for-4 in save chances and has now struck out 17 batters in 9 1/3 innings.
"What Bud did," Matheny said, "that was just fantastic."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Wainwright catches Schwarber looking: It was only the third inning, but Wainwright said, "If we were going to get out of that situation, we were going to win the game." He was speaking about facing Kyle Schwarber with two out and the bases loaded, the Cardinals up two runs and the grand slam Schwarber hit against St. Louis last season still on Wainwright's mind. The cold starting to affect his grip, Wainwright walked Kristopher Bryant and Anthony Rizzo before hitting Willson Contreras to pack the bags for the lefty slugger. He pumped his fists seven pitches later after winning the battle by catching Schwarber looking at a curveball. "To me, when I was in the moment, it felt like that was the game right there," Wainwright said.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Tasked with preserving a one-run lead in the seventh, 21-year-old rookie Jordan Hicks breezed through the heart of the Cubs' order, flashing his electric stuff in the process. He needed just 12 pitches to retire Bryant -- aided by a great defensive play by Tommy Pham -- Rizzo and Contreras in order, hitting triple digits with his two-seam fastball five times. Hicks entered the day the owner of the eight fastest pitches thrown this season. He topped his own mark twice on Tuesday, throwing 101.7-mph sinkers to both Bryant and Contreras.
HE SAID IT
"Thankfully, the only times I swung, I either missed it or hit it on the barrel. So it worked out good for me." -- Carpenter, on the tough hitting conditions
PHAM VISITED BY TRAINERS
Members of the training staff left the dugout to examine Pham during a pitching change in the eighth after Pham's right groin tightened in the cold conditions. Pham said he'd have left the game under normal circumstances, but the Cardinals were out of bench players (other than backup catcher Francisco Pena) after having fourth outfielder Harrison Bader pinch-hit a half-inning prior.
Removing Pham would have meant shifting infielders Jedd Gyorko or Greg Garcia, or first baseman Jose Martinez, who is playing with injuries to both feet, to the outfield. Matheny has routinely exhausted his reserve options in the early going, multiple times using starting pitchers to pinch-run.
Pham told Matheny that he doesn't expect to be out of the lineup on Wednesday.