Carpenter's return to leadoff spot pays off

Carpenter's return to leadoff spot pays off

ST. LOUIS -- Matt Carpenter batted third in over half of his 15 games since his return from the disabled list as the Cardinals tried to find more production in the middle of the lineup with Matt Holliday on the DL.

While a recent stint on the DL makes it difficult to discern where his recent offensive struggles are coming from, a home run to lead off the game Wednesday in an 8-1 win over the Mets showed that Carpenter is in a better position to figure out his woes from the top spot in the order.

"We'd like to get him going," manager Mike Matheny said. "He had that leadoff home run, and then after that, other guys started taking over."

It marked Carpenter third leadoff home run of the season and 12th of his career. It was also his first home run and RBI since his last leadoff home run, on Aug. 10.

"We've thrown so many different lineups up there this year," right fielder Stephen Piscotty said. "We usually always hit however the lineup is built. ... It's just great having him in the lineup, because he can do damage at any time. He's a tremendous hitter."

Carpenter's numbers suggest that the top spot in the order is where he needs to be in order to be the most productive version of himself. He didn't have an RBI in the eight games that he batted third, going 7-for-32 over that span. The Cardinals followed Carpenter's homer with 18 more hits, tying a season single-game high.

Can lineup movement spark an offense?

"I think so," center fielder Randal Grichuk said. "I think tonight hits were contagious and everybody was getting them, and we were feeding off each other, putting together good at-bats. I think, in a sense, yes."

When Carpenter hits first in the lineup this season, his average jumps up 50 points to .292. St. Louis tried a similar experiment last season, pushing him to the second slot in the order from late April through the end of July, and found a similar story. He had 42 more hits, 17 more RBIs and 16 more home runs in just 11 more games batting leadoff than out of the two hole.

"I think it's our responsibility as a staff to try and figure out what we're doing, what it looks like when we do it, and how can we make adjustments," Matheny said. "Trying to get him right, I think, is very important for our club, and we'll see if the top of the order can help with that."

Nick Krueger is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Louis. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.