ST. LOUIS -- With Carlos Beltran returning to the Cardinals' lineup for Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, Matt Carpenter makes his way back to the bench. He'll take his place there, though, with the Cardinals leading the series, 3-1, over the Giants largely because of his own contributions.
Carpenter's two-run home run lifted St. Louis to a 3-1 win in Game 3. One night later, Carpenter, making his first start of the postseason, reached base in each of his first three plate appearances and scored twice in the team's 8-3 victory.
"This is crazy," Carpenter said of his first playoff experience. "I feel fortunate and excited and happy to be a part of it. It's awesome. We're really excited to be at this point."
Carpenter can credit his postseason opportunity to the work he did under no spotlight last winter. It was with his dad and a former college coach that Carpenter tapped into his versatility. The work paid off when, during Spring Training, Carpenter proved capable of playing first base and the two corner outfield spots. That earned him a place on the team's Opening Day roster.
Carpenter never came off, finishing his rookie season with a .294 average and 46 RBIs in 114 games.
"It's a pretty strong statement with the lineup we have that there are days when we just know that he's going to be an impact bat for us," manager Mike Matheny said. "He's had a great season for us -- and the fact that we've had different guys go down, and he's able to step in no matter what we ask of him."