Second baseman Matt Carpenter has been the ultimate table-setter for the St. Louis Cardinals this season, batting .318 with a .392 on-base percentage as a leadoff hitter.
His hitting has been impressive, but his infield play might be more remarkable. This is Carpenter's first full season as a major leaguer, and it is his first season as a second baseman. He came through the minors as a third baseman and played first base and outfield last season.
Carpenter said that while it might seem like the transition to the middle infield was a smooth one, it wasn't easy and it is something that is still a work in progress.
"It was a challenge," Carpenter said. "I had never played the middle infield, never played second base in my life. To be able to convert from corner infield, corner outfield guy to the middle infield was definitely a challenge. It's something we put a lot of work in."
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said that he isn't surprised by Carpenter's success because Carpenter is one of the hardest-working players he has been around.
"I think he's been as good as you could ask of anybody at second base," Matheny said of Carpenter.
Sticking to the plan
Matheny said that he considered bringing staff ace Adam Wainwright back on three days' rest to pitch in Game 4 Monday but opted to stick with plan to start Michael Wacha.
"There were thoughts [of using Wainwright]," Matheny said. "But we have faith in our guys. We have faith in Michael Wacha to be able to go out there and give us a good start, hopefully get us back home. And we can let Adam pitch in Game 5."
A bit short-handed
Cardinal first baseman Allen Craig, out with a foot injury, was not available for this series.
Craig hit .315 with 13 home runs and 97 RBIs this season. Matt Adams has taken over first base in Craig's absence.
Adams has been very good in the role (.284 average, .839 OPS, 17 home runs), but the loss of Craig has been felt.
"When we have Allen Craig, we have a deeper bench and one of those big threats to come off the bench," Matheny said. "But we don't spend a whole lot of time focusing on what we don't have. What we do have is some speed and defense we can bring in off the bench. We really don't have a lot of offensive options.
"You're not going to see a lot of moves made. We're going to trust the guys we throw out there for the most part and trust our offense to produce enough to give us a lead and make defensive switches to help as we need."
Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran is the all-time leader for postseason slugging percentage and he is eighth all time with 16 postseason home runs, one more than Babe Ruth.
He seems to have a flair for getting clutch hits and driving in runs in the biggest moments.
Carpenter said he is simply amazed by how many times Beltran has come through for the Cardinals.
"He's a special, special player," Carpenter said. "There's just certain guys that when the lights turn on and the bigger the stage, the better they play. I've never been around anybody that just has a knack for getting those big hits and hitting those big home runs in those key moments, especially in the postseason. I've gotten to see it for two years now. He's a special player."
Paul Zeise: email@example.com, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise. First Published October 7, 2013 8:00 PM