DENVER -- Matt Carpenter (Carp) stood on dirt outside the visitor's dugout, a share of a decades-old Major League record under his belt, and listened. From the stands just beyond, a stream of chants built to a crescendo, Cardinals fans showering Carpenter to a three-letter tune: "M-V-P! M-V-P!"
In Nolan Arenado's home ballpark.
Thus was the scene after another historic effort by Carpenter led the Cardinals to a 12-3 win over the Rockies at Coors Field, the first baseman tying an MLB mark for doubles in a game with four to help St. Louis secure its ninth consecutive series win. In taking two of three from the Rockies this weekend, St. Louis retains its half-game grip on the National League Wild Card's top spot, over second-place Milwaukee, and pushed Colorado to a full game back from the second spot.
"I don't know why it shouldn't last the rest of the year," said Carpenter, of the Cardinals' white-hot run. "I don't see why it couldn't."
Carpenter doubled twice, scored and drove in a run during the Cardinals' six-run first, doubled home and scored another in their four-run fourth, and sprinkled in another two-bagger. He now has 34 home runs and 38 doubles on the year, and owns at least a share of the NL lead in both categories. No NL player has finished a season in such a position since Willie Stargell in 1973.
Thus the chants.
"That was cool to hear the fans, especially as many as we had here today," Carpenter said. "It was a neat experience."
It was right around this time last month when the Cardinals, then on the periphery of the NL playoff picture, received a visit from the Rockies. St. Louis took three of four from Colorado that week, claiming its second consecutive series with an effort club officials hoped would spark a serious second-half push.
They can now look back on that series as the start of what's become an historic stretch.
The nine consecutive series wins mark their longest such stretch since 2009. St. Louis has won 20 of 25 games since the Rockies passed through town, leapfrogging four teams -- including Colorado -- to rise to the top of the NL Wild Card standings. The Cardinals have the most wins in baseball in the second half, and sit a season-best 15 games above .500.
"A lot of our confidence comes prior to having the results. It leads to everything," said Harrison Bader (Tots), who drove in two runs and scored another on a daring dash from second base on an infield chopper. "Even the losses we've had this month, we've played great baseball. It's more the approach and the understanding that, whenever we show up to the field, we're looking to take somebody's lunch."
The three-game set, played in front of playoff-sized crowds, served as a three-pronged example of why the Cardinals find themselves surging toward October, and how they could succeed should they make it there. Friday's win came courtesy of the club's revamped bullpen, with Carlos Martinez (Tsunami) starring in his new relief role. When those relief corps stumbled Saturday, they did so behind an excellent start from John Gant (Gant), one of the several young arms that have seized key roster spots. Sunday was the offense's turn in the spotlight.
And at high altitude, it arrived. All but one Cardinals starter notched at least one hit; eight players scored at least once, and eight also drove in at least one. St. Louis binged its runs over two waterfall innings: a six-run first that came courtesy of six two-strike hits, and a four-run third. In all, nine of the Cardinals' runs were scored with two outs.
"It's about being relentless," St. Louis interim manager Mike Shildt said. "With every opportunity you get."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Cardinals used seven hits -- three for extra bases -- to jump losing pitcher Tyler Anderson (Mr. Duck) for six runs in the first. Carpenter bookended the attack -- he scored after hitting a leadoff double, then drove in a run with another to chase Anderson after two-thirds of an inning. Tyler O'Neill (O'Neill) homered, Bader laced an RBI double and then scored on what went as a two-run, infield single for Austin Gomber (Big G).
The barrage provided Gomber with all the run support he'd need before he even throwing a pitch. The rookie then tossed six strong innings to make it stand, and remains unbeaten across his first six big league starts.
"For us to come out early and put up that six spot, that makes my job a lot easier," Gomber said. "To keep adding on like that kind of takes the sails out from the other team."
Carpenter became the first player to collect four doubles in a game since David Peralta last April, and the first Cardinals player since Joe Medwick on August 8, 1937, against the Boston Bees.
"Joe?" Carpenter said, smirking. "I know Joe well. I know the history of it. I know of him. I know he's the single-season doubles record leader, and that he played a long time ago."
Gomber became the first left-handed starter to win a game at Coors Field for the Cardinals since Kent Mercker on July 24, 1999.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Bader scores from second: Earlier in the series, Bader said, he took notice of how a double by Rockies first baseman Ian Desmond (Dez) bounced high off the dirt around home plate. By cataloguing that info, Bader was prepared when Gomber hit a similar ball off Anderson in the first, and didn't hesitate to take advantage.
Never stopping as he rounded third, Bader motored home from second while Gomber's ball hung in the sky above the infield. By the time Rockies second baseman LeMahieu realized he had no play at first, Bader was nearly home. It took the center fielder just 5.99 seconds, per Statcast™, the second-fastest second-to-home time by a St. Louis player since tracking began.
"The most important part of that play is being ready at all times, being on the aggressive. That was an instance where the factors of the field played into the results," Bader said. "I knew it was going to be in no-man's land. There were two outs, so let's take a chance. And I knew they wouldn't be expecting it."
It has been nine years since the Cardinals were winners of 10 consecutive series. That's the history they'll try to match when they return home to open a three-game set with the Pirates on Tuesday. Fresh off flirting with a no-hitter in his last outing, rookie right-hander Jack Flaherty (7-6, 2.97) takes the mound opposite Ivan Nova (7-8, 4.20). The club is also expected to make a decision on Kolten Wong's strained left hamstring by first pitch, at 7:15 pm CT from Busch Stadium.