10/7/2013 3:06 P.M. ET
Cards seeking Carpenter's spark in leadoff spot
By Jenifer Langosch, Joey Nowak and John Schlegel / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- The Cardinals' offense won't thrive or falter solely on the contributions (or lack thereof) of a single player. But if there has been a bellwether of the Cards' offensive success, it has been leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter. As he goes, so often the Cardinals go, too.
"You think back to when we put him in the one-hole, that's when our team took off from an offensive standpoint," general manager John Mozeliak said. "You look at the ups and downs of our season, when he was struggling at the plate, that tended to put more pressure on other [parts] of the lineup. I think when you look at our two, three, four, five hitters, they seem to love to hit with runners on."
Carpenter has not been on much for them in this National League Division Series thus far. His only hit in 11 NLDS at-bats came back in Game 1, when he singled and scored in the Cards' seven-run inning. Carpenter has been on base just two other times in three games -- once via a walk and the other when he was hit by a pitch.
The dip in production extends to the team's final regular-season games, as well. Carpenter finished the year 2-for-19 over the final five games, a skid that left him one hit short of 200.
"Obviously, I think that all teams try to do a good job of trying to keep me off base, not giving me a free pass with a walk, really trying to come after me with strikes, knowing we have guys like Carlos Beltran behind me, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina," Carpenter said before Game 4. "So it wouldn't surprise me if a game plan is to do the best they can to keep me from getting on there. I've kind of seen that play out, especially in this series. I've been really getting attacked well, and I got to make that adjustment and try to get on there for those guys."
Carpenter led the Majors in hits (199), runs (126) and multihit games (63) during the regular season. The Cardinals went 65-24 in games where Carpenter scored at least one run.
Carpenter said on Monday that while the production hasn't been there recently, he continues to feel physically strong. He was attentive to his workload this season, knowing that the daily work he did last winter and the rigors of being an everyday player in the Majors for the first time this season would catch up to him if he didn't monitor his pregame and postgame work.
"As far as physically, I feel good," Carpenter said. "The postseason kind of adds some extra energy. If you are feeling like you're kind of dragging, this atmosphere will definitely pick that up. I do, I feel good. I'm looking forward to hopefully continuing this postseason, keeping it going."
Beltran's greatness creating dilemma for Bucs
PITTSBURGH -- Any time your name and accomplishments can be mentioned in the same breath as Babe Ruth, it commands attention and respect. But any time your name is followed Holliday, Adams and Molina, it also demands situational discretion.
Such is the dilemma Pirates manager Clint Hurdle may face with Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran as this National League Division Series progresses. Beltran is tearing through the history books as one of the most accomplished postseason players in baseball history -- and certainly of this generation -- so it begs the question: Do you continue to pitch to him?
"That's always a tough call for a manager," Hurdle said. "You believe you can get balls to spots that you can get some outs. Then when you don't, you are kind of like, 'Duh. Would've, could've, should've.' Beltran has been doing this for years, as we're all aware."
After a three-RBI night in Sunday's Game 3 loss that included his second homer of the series, Beltran leads all active players in postseason batting average (.360), on-base percentage (.463) and slugging percentage (.794). He ranks third among active players in career postseason homers (16) and games played (37).
Beltran's eighth-inning shot off Mark Melancon moved him past Ruth for eighth on baseball's all-time postseason home run list, and he now owns a .393 average in Division Series play, good for third all time.
"He's a special, special player," first baseman Matt Adams said. "Obviously, we all know that. There's just certain guys that when the lights turn on and the bigger the stage, the better they play. And he's definitely [one of those guys]. 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."
Still, Cards manager Mike Matheny knows his lineup is built to protect its prized postseason possession. Holliday and Molina are both former NL Most Valuable Player Award candidates, and Adams is one of the game's emerging power hitters.
In short, Beltran has shown he can hurt you. But the same goes for the hitters protecting him.
"I do think the problem for me right now is that guy hitting behind Beltran is a good hitter as well," said Hurdle, who managed Holliday in Colorado. "You have to pick which guy you want to go after and which guy you don't want to deal with. ... I think it's a gut feeling at that time, [and that's] what it will come down to."
After busy Game 3, Kozma back in lineup
PITTSBURGH -- One day after finding himself in the middle of a lot of the action on the infield and at the plate, Pete Kozma found himself in the Cardinals' lineup again for Game 4 of the National League Division Series.
Kozma, who had a throwing error in a two-run Pirates first but then reached base three times in the Cards' 5-3 loss in Game 3, got the nod at shortstop over Daniel Descalso, who had been in the lineup more often down the stretch and started the first two games, going 0-for-8.
Although right-hander Charlie Morton was on the mound for Pittsburgh, Matheny decided to go with the hotter hand from the right side in Kozma over Descalso, a left-handed hitter.
"[Kozma] had a good day yesterday, and has also had a little bit of success off Morton in the past," Matheny said.
Kozma has gone 2-for-6 with a double and an RBI single vs. Morton this season, the only times he has faced him. Meanwhile, Descalso has yet to face Morton this season and is 0-for-10 with three walks and a hit-by-pitch against him for his career.
With Kozma back in the No. 8 spot, the Cardinals made a few other changes in the lower part of the lineup as they shifted from facing a lefty to a righty. First baseman Matt Adams moved up to the cleanup spot, with Yadier Molina behind him, followed by Jon Jay and David Freese.
Matheny considered Wainwright to start Game 4
PITTSBURGH -- In confirming that Adam Wainwright will start a potential Game 5 in St. Louis, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny also revealed that his ace nearly started Game 4 on Monday. Matheny said that he would have used Game 4 starter Michael Wacha out of the bullpen in Sunday's Game 3 if the situation had situation called for it, leaving Wainwright to pitch Game 4 on Monday.
"If things would have gone crazy last night, we had Michael ready to potentially come in late," Matheny said before Monday's game. "That would have changed gears, and we would have pitched Adam today."
Matheny said in order for Wacha to pitch on Sunday, the Cards would have had to use Shelby Miller early in the game and then need significant innings late in the game.
"That would have been a situation," Matheny said. "So Michael was prepared for that. And then we would have, obviously, had to make a different move for today."
Wacha, 22, split his big league service time this year between the rotation and the bullpen, but his last five outings have been starts.
• Allen Craig (left foot sprain) joined his team on the field for batting practice Monday without his walking boot. Nothing, though, has changed with Craig's prognosis, and the date of his next examination remains undetermined. The Cardinals have said that they hope to have him available again if the team can play deep into October.
• MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reported on Monday that the Astros will hire Cards Minor League pitching coordinator Brent Strom to be their next Major League pitching coach. Strom has been in St. Louis' organization since 2007. Houston has not officially made the hiring announcement.
• Carpenter has been announced as one of 15 National League finalists for the Hank Aaron Award, an annual honor that recognizes the best offensive player in each league. The two league winners will be announced during the World Series after being selected by a Hall of Fame panel and fan voting on MLB.com.
• Rain passed through Pittsburgh overnight Sunday and into Monday morning, and it significantly cooled down the area. It was expected to be about 30 degrees cooler for first pitch on Monday than it was for Game 3, which began under sunny skies and a temperature of 84 degrees. Wind could also affect the conditions at PNC Park on Monday.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.