Despite Albert Pujols' departure and injuries to Lance Berkman and David Freese, the St. Louis Cardinals have gotten off to a fast start. That's due in part to Matt Carpenter and Kyle Lohse, and the duo may give their team a good opportunity to keep it going in a matchup with the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night.
Carpenter hopes to get the chance to follow a five-RBI performance, while Lohse tries to beat the Reds for the second time in a row when the teams open a three-game set at Busch Stadium.
Carpenter, who's been playing because Berkman and Freese have been nursing minor injuries, went 4 for 4 and drove in five runs to power St. Louis to a 10-3 win over Chicago on Sunday. The rookie homered and tripled and is batting .409 with 10 RBIs in 22 at-bats.
"We've got some guys dinged up, so the opportunity's there, I'm just trying to make the most of it," Carpenter said. "I couldn't tell you if I would have dreamed of having a day like this."
Despite the spectacular effort, Carpenter might not find his name in the starting lineup for this game. Berkman missed the weekend series with a strained left calf but could be back, while Freese might also return from an injured right ring finger.
"They both came in swearing up and down that Tuesday's their day, so we'll see what happens," manager Mike Matheny said.
While the return of both players could put Carpenter back on the bench, outfielder Carlos Beltran was taken out of Sunday's contest after being hit by a pitch on the right forearm. He had trouble throwing and his status is day to day.
Carpenter's timely offense has helped St. Louis post a .299 batting average - best in baseball. The Cardinals (7-3) have also benefited from a solid effort from the pitching staff, anchored in part by Lohse (2-0, 1.35 ERA).
The right-hander defeated the Reds 3-1 in his latest outing last Tuesday, going six innings and allowing one run. Lohse has posted a 2.00 ERA in his last five starts versus the Reds.
St. Louis took two of three from Cincinnati (4-6) in the first series, though the Reds' one win came when Johnny Cueto (1-0, 2.25) started. The right-hander only lasted five innings and gave up three runs Wednesday, but Cincinnati rallied from a 3-1 deficit and won 4-3 on Chris Heisey's walkoff single in the ninth.
That was the Reds' last win before they managed to avoid a four-game sweep in Washington with an 8-5, 11-inning victory Sunday. Joey Votto delivered a winning two-run double for Cincinnati, which had scored 10 runs in losing five of six before posting its highest offensive output of the season.
"It's still early," right fielder Jay Bruce told the team's official website. "I don't think you can win or lose the season in the first couple of weeks. You can obviously put yourself in a better position."
Freese, batting .406 with 11 RBIs, has hit .333 with six home runs and 16 RBIs versus the Reds in his career. Center fielder John Jay, 5 for 12 with two homers and four RBIs in his last three games, is 9 for 18 with three home runs off Cueto.
Bruce has gone 6 for 18 with a homer, double and a triple against Lohse.