Carpenter wields a hammer with 5 RBIs in series finale

April 24th, 2023

PHOENIX -- Imagine you’re an opposing pitcher facing the new, fully loaded Padres starting lineup. The first five hitters are a certifiable gauntlet.

All five were All-Stars in each of the past two seasons – except, of course, , who didn’t play in 2022 but was an All-Star in ‘21 and undeniably one of the most feared hitters in the sport. They all do different things, too: the overwhelming force of Tatis, the patient power from , ’s ability to do damage against any pitch type, ’ relentlessness, ’s tenacity.

Good luck.

Now imagine you’ve somehow managed to navigate that quintet. Time to exhale. Your reward? .

Nope. That can’t be any fun at all.

Carpenter, of course, is one of the peskiest hitters of the past decade. Throw a pitch out of the zone, he’ll lay off. Execute your pitch to a corner, he’ll foul it off. Make a mistake? He’ll put it in the seats.

And that’s exactly what Carpenter did on Sunday afternoon in the Padres’ 7-5 victory over the D-backs at Chase Field. Those five perennial All-Stars set the table. Carpenter wasted no time cashing in the opportunities.

Carpenter finished 3-for-3 with two doubles, a home run and a sacrifice fly – good for five RBIs in his finest performance as a Padre. In truth, he has been taking excellent at-bats all year. But it wasn’t until this weekend that the results followed.

“I’ve felt like I was trending in the right direction,” Carpenter said. “Today, this series, I was able to see some of it pay off.”

The Padres took three of four games from the upstart D-backs at Chase Field, as they welcomed back Tatis and starting pitcher  this weekend. At the tail end of a stretch with games on 18 consecutive days, it was an impressive early season statement.

In those four games, Carpenter finished 5-for-7 with seven RBIs. He was also pinch-hit for twice against tough left-handers and once entered as a pinch-hitter against a righty.

“It’s really similar to what I was thrown into last year with the Yankees,” Carpenter said. “You’ve got to be ready for whatever role, whatever situation. I’ve adopted that mindset: Just try to be the best version of myself to help our club that day. Whether that’s pinch-hitting or coming off the bench or playing for a righty or staying in there for a lefty -- just being ready.”

A decade ago, Carpenter was racking up 700-plus plate appearances in St. Louis. At 37, he is no longer that player. But if Carpenter gets, say, half of that workload -- and if those plate appearances are quality -- he will have been a hugely worthwhile investment.

In short: Carpenter needed to find a team like the Padres. The Padres needed to find a player like Carpenter.

“Listen, I just wanted to be part of a good team that had a legitimate chance to win a World Series -- and to have a role on it,” Carpenter said. “I felt like this was a great fit. We’ve got a really good chance to have that goal come to fruition. I’m just trying to put my piece in, however that looks.”

The Padres inked Carpenter to a two-year, $12 million contract during the winter. He was coming off a renaissance season in New York. Limited to 47 games due to injury, Carpenter posted numbers that, extrapolated over a full season, looked like peak Babe Ruth. He overhauled his swing the offseason prior, and it paid major dividends.

Now the lefty-hitting Carpenter has carved himself an impactful role on the Padres. He put together two excellent plate appearances against lefties on Sunday – a sac fly and a double. Manager Bob Melvin noted that he might not be so willing to pinch-hit for Carpenter against lefties moving forward. But with  as the other half of the DH platoon, Carpenter will almost certainly continue to sit against left-handed pitching.

And in that case? What a weapon to bring off the bench.

“He’s a great hitter,” said Machado, who returned to action Sunday after resting Saturday with a sore back. “He knows what the plate is. He knows how to carry a team. And the most important part: He knows how to win. He’s a baller. He’s a gamer. He’s a guy that’s a big influence on this ballclub.”

Sweet mustache, too.