CHICAGO • With each swing, Matt Carpenter sent a superlative to the outfield — and three times well beyond it.
By the end of the sixth inning, the Cardinals' leadoff hitter had one of the finest offensive performances ever by a Cardinal against the archrival Cubs. Carpenter hit three home runs, became the first Cardinal ever to have five extra-base hits in a game, and drove home seven runs. The Cardinals stormed away for an 18-5 victory Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field.
The game got so out of hand so early that the Cubs used three different position players to throw the final three innings of the game.
Harrison Bader got two hits off two different position players.
And he was a late-game replacement.
The 18 runs were the most by a Cardinals team since August 2008. Carpenter's 16 total bases tied a franchise record, and only six players in the history of baseball have had more total bases in a single game. His three homers are a career high, and his first of the game tied Lou Brock for the most leadoff homers in Cardinals history at 21.
On the same date in 2004, Albert Pujols hit three home runs and went five-for-five with six RBIs against the Cubs. Like Carpenter, he scored four runs.
Carpenter edged him in total bases, 16 to 15, and RBIs, seven to six.
The torrent of offense included two other homers in the game -- by Greg Garcia and Yairo Munoz. Like Bader, they were late-game replacements. Like Bader, their hits came off of Cubs position players. The five home runs in the game tied a season high for the Cardinals.
That all backed rookie starter Jack Flaherty, who faced one dicey inning in his five on the mound. In the third inning, a hit batter and two walks loaded the bases for the Cubs when the game was still in doubt. Flaherty struck out Javier Baez and Willson Contreras -- the Cubs' two All-Stars -- to end the threat and give the Cardinals another chance to pull away.
They scored seven runs in the top of the fourth inning to do so.
• BOX SCORE: Cardinals 18, Cubs 5
Pujols was the only Cardinal ever to have three homers in one game against the Cubs, and he did it twice in his career. Both games were at Wrigley. Carpenter's three homers is the 19th time in club history that a player has hit at least that many in a game. Carpenter's 16 total bases match the record set by Mark Whiten when he hit four home runs against the Reds in 1993.
Carpenter and the Cubs Kris Bryant are the only players in the modern game with at least three homers and at least two doubles in the same game.
Carpenter was removed after the sixth inning so he did not get a crack at any of the Cubs' position players to handle an inning. A reason for the removal was not immediately known, but the Cardinals do have a doubleheader at Wrigley on Saturday. Manager Mike Shildt had said that he intended to give Carpenter one of the two games off. It's possible that by taking a 1/2 day -- with a fully historic game already in his pocket -- Carpenter would be available for both games.
Tying Lou Brock and putting the Cardinals ahead was just the beginning of a career day for Matt Carpenter that took aim at feats last accomplished by Cardinals named Mark Whiten and Albert Pujols.
In a record-setting, record-smashing afternoon at Wrigley Field, Carpenter hit three home runs, doubled twice, and had seven RBIs.
That was all by the sixth inning.
The three-homer game is the first for the Cardinals' leadoff hitter in his career. With 16 total bases he tied Whiten's franchise record set on the day that he hit four home runs against the Reds. Carpenter's 16 total bases eclipse the record for a Cardinal against the Cubs -- which was 15, set by Albert Pujols on the same date back in 2004.
Carpenter ties a career high for hits (five) and runs scored (five) in a game. He set both of those marks on June 26 against Cleveland.
Carpenter was removed from the game with the Cardinals' leading 15-1 and Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella taking over at pitcher.
On May 15, after a game in Minnesota, Carpenter had a .140 batting average and a .272 slugging percentage. He had just received three days off to search for his swing and insisted that would be beneficial -- he could feel the timing come back. In the 56 games since, he has 74 hits in 214 at-bats and 20 home runs, including the three hit Friday.
He has a .345 average and a .738 slugging percentage since then.
No player in the National League has a better OPS than Carpenter since mid-May, and with Friday's game Caprenter overtook Mookie Betts for the best OPS in baseball over the past two months.
CARPENTER TIES BROCK
Even when he's nowhere in the vicinity and trades aren't really even being talked about the Cubs cannot escape Lou Brock and all that he did for the Cardinals once he shed the Chicago jersey.
After taking a pitch that starter Jon Lester clearly wanted to be a called a strike, Matt Carpenter swung his way into history Friday afternoon.
He pulled a Lou.
Carpenter drilled a full-count for a soaring, deep home run off the left-field scoreboard and in the process set a club record, tied another club record, and did something in the past week that he had never done before in his career. It was a busy home run.
Carpenter's leadoff homer gave him 21 for his career, tying the club record set by Brock.
Carpenter's leadoff homer game him five for this season, breaking a club record he and Brock had both previously held before.
Carpenter's leadoff homer gave him home runs in four consecutive games. That is a first in his career and a first for the Cardinals since Dexter Fowler and Randal Grichuk each did it in 2017. Carpenter's 21 home runs so far this season lead the team.
The Cardinals hold a 1-0 lead through one inning.
SHILDT STARTS FOWLER AGAIN
The way Harrison Bader found his way into the lineup ahead of Dexter Fowler started with a situation similar to the one facing the Cardinals this afternoon at Wrigley Field.
Fowler, for much of the first quarter of the season, had one hit against lefthanded pitching, while Bader, a righthanded batter, excelled. He went on an extra-base spree against San Diego lefties, and turned that into a true platoon with Fowler. And when Bader continued to hit, he expanded his role and within a few series Fowler was describing himself as "in a new role."
The Cubs are starting a lefty this afternoon.
The Cardinals are starting Fowler.
Siding with the consistency he's been preaching to the clubhouse, interim manager Mike Shildt is throwing out the same lineup for the third consecutive game. That includes Fowler in right and from the right side against Cubs ace Jon Lester. Kolten Wong is starting at second base, and helping Shildt make that decision, he said, was some of the at-bats he saw Thursday night -- not always seeking the matchup.
"If you look at the at-bats he's taking against lefties, they've been more -- the grand slam the other day against the White Sox," Shildt said. "He had a tough at-bat last night. A couple of inches the other way and you're talking about, with Kolten at first, a bases-clearing double or triple."
Switch-hitting Fowler's at-bats against lefties have been severely limited in 2018. His first at-bat against Lester will be only his 55 plate appearance of this season from the right side of the plate. In 46 at-bats against lefties he has four hits (one grand slam, three singles) and he's struck out 17 times for a .087/.204/.152 slash line.
Bader has been dealing with hamstring soreness that came from being hit by a pitch in the area and then a nasty tumble at first base that looked like it could have been a wrenching knee or ankle injury. Bader said that he was fine and moving at full-speed after the break. The Cardinals insist that the decision with Fowler in right field and against the lefty is not a response to Bader being limited but a commitment to Fowler for playing time.
Shildt has made that an element of his first week on the job.
Luke Weaver joined the team in Chicago on Friday. He will be placed on the active roster Saturday as the 26th man for the doubleheader. He's getting the first game of the planned two-step, and John Gant will make the start in the evening game. Miles Mikolas will also join the active roster on Saturday requiring a move that the Cardinals will have to make that could limit their bullpen.
That will be based on how Friday's game goes and whether the inclement weather expected over the next two days interrupts the game.
Here's the lineup:
- Matt Carpenter, 1B
- Yadier Molina, C
- Paul DeJong, SS
- Marcell Ozuna, LF
- Jedd Gyorko, 3B
- Kolten Wong, 2B
- Dexter Fowler, RF
- Tommy Pham, CF
- Jack Flaherty, P
Check back throughout the afternoon here for news, notes, anecdotes, and a series of blogs coming about the Cardinals.