Small ball or long ball, Carpenter contributing

Small ball or long ball, Carpenter contributing

ST. LOUIS -- A bunt and a blast bookended Matt Carpenter's evening on Friday, as the third baseman extended his hitting streak to 10 games and lifted the Cardinals to a 3-1 victory over the Marlins.

The blasts haven't been all too rare these days, as Carpenter's eighth-inning homer off reliever Mike Dunn was his team-leading 18th of the season and his eighth since July 30. Perhaps most notable was that it was the first home run Dunn had served up to a left-handed hitter this season.

Carpenter's solo homer

The bunt, however, came wrapped with a grand element of surprise, and with it, Carpenter sparked some scoring in a game bereft of it up until that point.

"Looking for a crack," was how manager Mike Matheny described the moment afterward.

Carpenter found it with Mark Reynolds on third and two out in the fifth inning. A day after exploiting a slight defensive shift with a bunt down the third-base line, Carpenter saw Marlins third baseman Martin Prado scooting back at his position as the hitter dug in at the plate. It was an opening Carpenter thought he could seize.

"They weren't shifting or anything, but I knew if I could just get a decent bunt down, I had a chance," Carpenter said. "And I knew at that point in the game nobody was expecting it."

Standing on third base, Reynolds, too, realized the possibility of what was to come. He had seen Carpenter working on his bunting technique in recent days, and third-base coach Jose Oquendo alerted him to Prado's positioning.

Seconds later, Carpenter laid down a bunt that couldn't have been better placed. Reynolds scored easily. Carpenter reached without drawing a throw.

"He's always looking for something, something to add to his bag of tricks," Matheny said. "It's been nice to add home runs into the bag this year, and we've reaped the benefits of that. And then to just look and see what they're going to give you [on defense], it's a smart play."

It was actually the second bunt single Carpenter had tallied in as many days. He bunted for a base hit to lead off the seventh on Thursday and helped spark a two-run inning with it. He had previously tallied just seven career bunt singles, including one earlier this season.

But just about everything Carpenter has touched has turned to gold in recent days. Since moving back to the leadoff spot late last month, Carpenter is 21-for-55 with 16 RBIs.

"It's something I feel like I can do given the right opportunity," Carpenter said. "It's not something I feel like I can do a lot, just because it has to be perfect because I'm not that fast. But tonight was a good opportunity for it, and Mark did a great job reading it."

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.