Matt Carpenter grinds it out against Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

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St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter grinded it out against Clayton Kershaw on Friday night in Game 1 of the 2014 National League Division Series.

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There’s no reason to doubt that Matt Carpenter is in the heads of the Los Angeles Dodgers right now.

In Game 6 of the 2013 NLCS, it was Carpenter’s 11-pitch at-bat in the third inning that turned the tide for the Cardinals. It sparked a 4-run inning and the Cardinals went on to win the game 9-0 to advance to the 2013 World Series.

Flash-forward almost a year later and Carpenter is grinding once more against Kershaw. It took 8 pitches but Carpenter hit a fly ball to deep right field for a bases-clearing three-run double. A few inches and it would have been a grand slam. An inning earlier, Carpenter took the first pitch he saw and hit it out of the park for a home run. This gave the Cardinals a 7-6 lead and forced Kershaw out of the game.

Carpenter’s performance should not come as a surprise to Cardinals fans or anyone else for that matter.

“Matt’s performance to this point is not surprising to anyone at TCU,” said TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle, who coached Carpenter in college. “He is a true grinder who has great in-game awareness of what is going on. Matt has a tremendous grasp of the mental game of baseball, which allows him to control his breathing and slow the game down to the pace in which he wants to perform.”
October 4, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter (13) rounds the bases after hitting a two run home run in the eighth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game two of the 2014 NLDS playoff baseball game at Dodger Stadium. Image Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
“You worry about the Cardinals’ offense if you’re Hyun-Jin Ryu,” said MLB Tonight studio analyst Darryl Hamilton. They have had their hot stretches in St. Louis and can have it happen again especially when you’re facing a pitcher who hasn’t pitched in a long time. Carpenter has been phenomenal. He is not swayed by anyone on the left side. I expect him to have another big game.”

On MLB Tonight, Hamilton and Billy Ripken broke down both of Carpenter’s battles with Kershaw.

After the game on Friday, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was asked about what it is with the matchup that Carpenter keeps winning against Kershaw.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Mattingly said. “Early in the game, Kershaw gets him and then to me he’s a good hitter, he battles and he’s a guy, he’s a tough out. So, there’s always somebody that seems like it matches up with you that sees you good, but I know we’re not going to give in to that, Clayton is not giving in to that. He’s going to basically get to the point where he’s got to say, Yeah, I got to make better pitches, I got to make the right pitch at the right time in the right sequence, or whatever he is going to say.

“So he’s a good hitter, we give him credit, he fights, but we’re not going to give in to that matchup.”

It’s not just Kershaw that Carpenter is winning the battles against. Down 2-0 on Saturday in Game 2, Carpenter took the first pitch he saw from J.P. Howell and tied the game in the 8th inning with a home run. One can only start to wonder if Carpenter is starting to get in the heads of the Dodgers pitching.

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