Matt Carpenter is doing some damage at the plate, but what may be more important for the St. Louis Cardinals is another strong performance on the mound.
Carpenter looks to continue his dominance of the San Francisco Giants on Thursday, while Carlos Martinez will try to draw some inspiration from Adam Wainwright when he takes the hill in the finale of this three-game series.
Carpenter has put together a seven-game hitting streak during which he’s 11 for 26 (.423) after going 6 for 44 over the previous 13 games. The third baseman is 7 for 11 in the past three, including four hits in this series as he continues hammering the Giants.
An All-Star for the first time last year, Carpenter owns a .520 average in 16 career regular-season meetings with the Giants, getting at least one hit in 14 of them. That includes going 19 for 38 during a 10-game hitting streak in the all-time series.
"I don’t think there is any rhyme or reason to it," Carpenter said. "I stay with the same approach and just try to help the team."
He certainly did that with three hits and one RBI in Wednesday’s 2-0 win, giving Wainwright more than enough support as he allowed four hits in 7 2-3 innings. That halted a three-game skid for St. Louis in which the rotation gave up 18 runs over 11 1-3 innings.
The Cardinals (45-40) would like to see Martinez (1-3, 4.13 ERA) offer an encore to Wainwright’s sterling performance. He remains in the rotation with Michael Wacha still on the disabled list because of a shoulder injury.
Martinez has been impressive in three starts in place of last fall’s NL championship series MVP, going 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA. However, he hasn’t pitched beyond the fifth inning as he continues to adjust to a move from the bullpen.
The 22-year-old right-hander, one of the Cardinals’ top young arms, has started just four of his 54 career games. Martinez tossed a season-high 82 pitches in 4 1-3 innings of a 3-1 road win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, and he helped himself by getting the first two hits of his career.
He’ll now start against the Giants for the first time after going 0-1 while giving up four runs in 3 1-3 innings over two relief outings earlier this year.
San Francisco has dropped 16 of 21 games, including 13 of 16 at home after compiling a 22-9 record through the first 31 contests.
Turning to Madison Bumgarner (9-5, 2.90) may not be the remedy despite him ranking among baseball’s wins leaders. The left-hander is 0-2 with a 4.95 ERA over his last three home starts, and his latest was one of his worst of the year. He was tagged for a season-high five earned runs and nine hits in six innings of Friday’s 6-2 loss to Cincinnati.
"I felt like I did a good job of staying poised, but it kept snowballing," Bumgarner said. "I kept focusing on the next guy, but I had a hard time getting out of it."
Bumgarner didn’t have any such issues against the Cardinals on May 30, striking out 10 while allowing three hits in seven scoreless innings of a 9-4 road win. He hasn’t faced them at home since being hammered for six runs and two homers in 3 2-3 innings of Game 1 of the 2012 NLCS.