Carpenter still productive during tough offensive stretch

Third baseman talks Matheny out of day off, comes through with RBI single Saturday

Carpenter still productive during tough offensive stretch

ST. LOUIS -- Seeing his third baseman searching for traction with his swing, manager Mike Matheny returned home from Colorado on Wednesday preparing to find a day to unplug Matt Carpenter.

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He considered Friday, and pondered the move again on Saturday, but Carpenter's insistence that he is feeling physically strong led Matheny to leave his two-hole hitter in the lineup.

Carpenter came through with an RBI single in the Cardinals' 3-2 win over the Royals on Saturday, but didn't get another ball out of the infield. It's part of an extended frustrating stretch for the third baseman, who hasn't offered the same sort of production since returning from a three-day absence due to extreme fatigue. The most glaring difference between the before and after are the sharp decline in extra-base hits and rise in strikeouts.

Carpenter opened the season on a tear, batting a.365/.431/.656 with 14 doubles, one triple and four homers in 24 games. He struck out just 15 times. Since sitting out a series while dealing with symptoms of dehydration, Carpenter has a .248/.352/.367 slash line with just seven extra-base hits over 109 at-bats (30 games).

The production drop-off is even more pronounced this month, as Carpenter is hitting .158/.283/.184 with one extra-base hit and 13 strikeouts in 12 June games. That included his first career four-strikeout game earlier this week.

"I don't feel great," Carpenter said after Saturday's 1-for-4 afternoon. "I've felt better. But when you don't feel great, find a way to do something productive. It's the nature of the game. … It's a long season. The ebb and flows of the game is part of it. You ride the waves."

To his credit, Carpenter has found a way to make the most of his hits this month. Each of the six has either directly produced a run or been followed by Carpenter scoring later in the inning.

"I think we've been spoiled around here because it's happened very few times in his still young career where we've seen him just fighting," Matheny said. "I think what's frustrating him more than anything is he's striking out which is something he doesn't normally do. He's working on it. You watch him in [batting practice], he's got intent to every swing right now to get himself locked back in. But even when he's not locked in, he's still going to be a tough out."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.