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Cards seeking Carpenter's spark in leadoff spot

Cards seeking Carpenter's spark in leadoff spot

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Cards seeking Carpenter's spark in leadoff spot

PITTSBURGH -- The Cardinals' offense won't thrive or falter solely on the contributions (or lack thereof) of a single player. But if there has been a bellwether of the Cards' offensive success, it has been leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter. As he goes, so often the Cardinals go, too.

"You think back to when we put him in the one-hole, that's when our team took off from an offensive standpoint," general manager John Mozeliak said. "You look at the ups and downs of our season, when he was struggling at the plate, that tended to put more pressure on other [parts] of the lineup. I think when you look at our two, three, four, five hitters, they seem to love to hit with runners on."

Carpenter has not been on much for them in this National League Division Series thus far. His only hit in 11 NLDS at-bats came back in Game 1, when he singled and scored in the Cards' seven-run inning. Carpenter has been on base just two other times in three games -- once via a walk and the other when he was hit by a pitch.

The dip in production extends to the team's final regular-season games, as well. Carpenter finished the year 2-for-19 over the final five games, a skid that left him one hit short of 200.

"Obviously, I think that all teams try to do a good job of trying to keep me off base, not giving me a free pass with a walk, really trying to come after me with strikes, knowing we have guys like Carlos Beltran behind me, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina," Carpenter said before Game 4. "So it wouldn't surprise me if a game plan is to do the best they can to keep me from getting on there. I've kind of seen that play out, especially in this series. I've been really getting attacked well, and I got to make that adjustment and try to get on there for those guys."

Carpenter led the Majors in hits (199), runs (126) and multihit games (63) during the regular season. The Cardinals went 65-24 in games where Carpenter scored at least one run.

Carpenter said on Monday that while the production hasn't been there recently, he continues to feel physically strong. He was attentive to his workload this season, knowing that the daily work he did last winter and the rigors of being an everyday player in the Majors for the first time this season would catch up to him if he didn't monitor his pregame and postgame work.

"As far as physically, I feel good," Carpenter said. "The postseason kind of adds some extra energy. If you are feeling like you're kind of dragging, this atmosphere will definitely pick that up. I do, I feel good. I'm looking forward to hopefully continuing this postseason, keeping it going."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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