CHICAGO -- The constant in Mike Shildt's lineup became the catalyst on Friday afternoon as Matt Carpenter delivered one of the best single-game performances in franchise history to help the Cardinals roll over the Cubs, 18-5, at Wrigley Field.
While Shildt shuffled several players around to form a new-look lineup upon taking over as interim manager, the top spot in the order never ceased to belong to Carpenter. Shildt wanted the offense to follow his lead.
That was done en masse Friday once Carpenter jolted the unit to life with his franchise-record 21st career leadoff home run. The Cardinals went on to bat around in two innings while tallying a season high in runs and hits to pull to within 7 1/2 games of their National League Central rivals.
"If you look at a lot of quality teams, the top of your lineup is going to table-set and be productive," Shildt said. "In this case, [Carpenter] is doing damage, too. Get a guy on base who has good at-bats, it starts the game off right."
Carpenter joined Chicago's Kristopher Bryant as the only players in Major League history to hit three home runs and two doubles in a game. And Carpenter is the first to notch five extra-base hits in the first six innings. Carpenter finished with five hits, seven RBIs and four runs scored before being pulled before the bottom of the sixth. He had the club's first three-homer game since 2010, when Jose Pujols hit a trio of home runs -- also at Wrigley Field.
"I told him I'll give him $1,000 for that day," said Tommy Pham, whose offer was declined. "He had a great day today. That's amazing."
Production was plentiful around Carpenter, too. Every position player in the starting lineup reached base at least twice, and six players drove in a run during the seven-run fourth that turned the game into a rout.
The Cardinals even received a home run from two players (Greg Garcia and Yairo Munoz) who entered the game following Carpenter's departure. Both of those blasts came after the Cubs had waved the white flag by sending position players in to pitch.
The Cardinals finished with a season-high 18 hits, and they have now scored at least a half-dozen runs in every game Shildt has managed. It's the first time this season the club has done so in three consecutive games. The Cards hadn't scored 18 runs in a game since Aug. 22, 2008.
"I'm having a hard time coming up with words to describe a day like this," Carpenter said after the second five-hit game of his career. "I think, more importantly -- and I don't want it to get lost in the shuffle -- that we beat a really good team today against a really good starting pitcher who is having a great season. I think it would be a disservice to our club if we don't acknowledge the great team effort that we were able to do, offensively, against a great team. I'm really happy with the way that played out."
The flurry of run support helped starter Jack Flaherty to a victory in his first career outing at Wrigley Field. Before the game got out of hand, he worked out of a bases-loaded jam with consecutive strikeouts of Javier Baez and Willson Contreras in the third. Flaherty finished with nine strikeouts in his five-inning appearance.
"Jack -- for me, the way he goes about it -- is mature beyond his years," Shildt said. "He's got a slower heart rate based on what he does, and he used it well there. He could've gotten sped up and let the game get sped up on him, but he actually slowed down and got refocused and started executing more. That's a really good trait."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The chance to chase Mark Whiten's franchise record four-homer game dissolved in the sixth when Carpenter and Shildt mutually agreed to end Carpenter's day after his third home run. In fact, Carpenter was ready to exit prior to that final at-bat, but he decided to take one more once it became an RBI opportunity.
"Obviously, I didn't even realize at the time that it was anything historic or anything crazy," Carpenter said. "And honestly, if I take that last at-bat, it's going to be versus a position player, and there's not a lot of glory in that anyways. I'm fine with it."
"We've got a doubleheader tomorrow, and we've just come out of the break and had a long day," added Shildt. "After he hit that three-run homer, it just felt right for him and for us. It could've been even more historic, but that was a pretty good day."
Carpenter's monstrous afternoon came 14 years to the date after Pujols had 15 total bases in another three-homer game at Wrigley Field. With 16 total bases on Friday, Carpenter tied Whiten's franchise record.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Having already become just the sixth player in Cardinals history to have two doubles and two homers in a game, Carpenter assured that he'd sit alone in the record books when he blasted a three-run homer off Brian Duensing in the sixth. The homer was as unlikely as any Carpenter has hit, as it had the second-highest launch angle (49 degrees) of any homer since 2015. The ball had a hit probability of 2 percent, according to Statcast™.
"You know, when I hit it, I knew that I barreled it. But I knew I hit it super high," Carpenter said. "Off the bat, I initially was like, 'Ah, just missed it or just got under it.' But I looked up at the flags, and it was a windy day and [thought] it might have a chance. [Right fielder Jason] Heyward just drifted and drifted and drifted, and obviously, it fell in the basket. It was quite a thrill."
HE SAID IT
"It stinks when it's against us, but he's a heck of a player. Now, there's two of us. He's a pretty cool guy to share it with." -- Bryant, who had his historic three-homer, two-double day two years ago in Cincinnati
The Cardinals will play their first doubleheader of the season on Saturday, with games at 12:05 p.m. CT and 6:05 p.m. at Wrigley Field. Luke Weaver (5-8, 4.72 ERA) will be recalled to start Game 1 of the twin bill against righty Tyler Chatwood (3-5, 5.04 ERA). John Gant (3-3, 3.49 ERA) is slated to oppose lefty Mike Montgomery (3-3, 3.91 ERA) in the nightcap.