Matt Carpenter tested Jacoby Ellsbury on Tuesday night, and by the result, it looked dumb to try to test him again.
But try him again he did on Wednesday, when Carpenter sent another liner toward the wall in center.
Two line drives to the warning track, two nights, two different results. The first was run down by Ellsbury, who used a beautiful backhanded stab to snag it, crashing into the wall. The second ended up hitting dirt just past Ellsbury’s outstretched glove for Carpenter’s first of a two-double night against New York.
Win some, lose some.
And after losing more than he’s used to early in the year, Carpenter has his bat heating up just in time for summer.
“People that have watched him for an extended period of time know he can hit the ball about anywhere,” manager Mike Matheny said before Carpenter extended his hitting streak to 10 games during Wednesday’s 7-4 loss to the Yankees.
Carpenter is hitting .356 (16 for 45) during the streak and has seen his batting average jump from .256 on May 13 to .277.
That’s more what Matheny is used to seeing from Carpenter, who led the National League in hits last season but started this one in a funk that saw him rolling over so many pitches that the Yankees employed a shift on him all series.
Carpenter lined his second double down the left-field line, past the vacant space at third New York left for him.
Matheny admitted that he’s seen Carpenter roll over to the right side more often this season than last and isn’t surprised as his leadoff hitter is starting to use the whole field just as he’s breaking out.
“He’s always been that guy,” Matheny said. “He’s got the ability to go, we’ve seen him drive the ball to both sides. People in St. Louis have seen that opposite field stroke for a long time from Matt Carpenter.”
What they haven’t seen for long — but can definitely get used to — is the spark when the combination of Carpenter and No. 2 batter Kolten Wong truly ignite.
It did Wednesday, as the two combined for six hits, two runs scored and two RBIs in what was otherwise a losing night at Busch.
“If Carp gets on, I can find a way to move him over,” said Wong, who used a career-high four hits to move Carpenter to third one time and score him another. “There’s a good possibility we can both score. With those kinds of guys behind you, the possibilities are endless pretty much.”
“Whenever that happens our offense starts clicking,” Matheny added. “Typically we get four, five runs.”
The Cardinals got four Wednesday, on 13 hits, one more than the winning team. After falling behind 7-0 by the fourth, the offense chipped away, scoring one in the fourth, fifth, sixth and eighth.
But the Cardinals left 15 men on base and hit just three for 15 with runners in scoring position.
They got a lot of hits.
That big one never came.
“That’s what it comes down to,” Wong said. “That one hit here or there can easily change a ballgame.”
Wong added: “Confidence plays a big role.”
Wong and Carpenter will continue to play similar roles for the Cardinals. If they can stay hot, it’ll be vital for a team that entered Wednesday having scored 48 fewer runs than it had through the same number of games last season.
“When this lineup does get right and does click on all cylinders, it’s going to be a different offense than we had last year,” Carpenter said before the start of the Yankees series. “It’s hard to say it will be better but it can be just as good. I’m anxious to see it happen. I know everyone in here is anxious to see it happen.”
It may be starting to happen.
And that all starts with the man at the top.
Joe Trezza is a sports intern at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at JoeTrezz" @JoeTrezz