St. Louis Cardinals: The Return of Matt Carpenter?

Matt Carpenter (13) receives a curtain call from the fans after hitting a two run home run during the third inning against the Washington Nationals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Carpenter (13) receives a curtain call from the fans after hitting a two run home run during the third inning against the Washington Nationals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /
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There’s no secret that the spring training and early days of the 2021 St. Louis Cardinals season have been a struggle for Matt Carpenter, but is he turning it around?

The St. Louis Cardinals’ bats erupted on Tuesday night against the Washington Nationals. Everyone in the lineup contributed, with home runs by Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt serving as exclamation points. Perhaps the most meaningful hit of the game came from the struggling Matt Carpenter.

Carpenter came into the game hitting below .100 and was clearly struggling. Against Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg, he was able to keep a deep drive into right field just fair as it clipped the foul pole. The home run extended the St. Louis Cardinals lead and seemingly lifted a weight off Carpenter’s shoulders.

This homer opened the floodgates for the rest of the offense, too. The barrage peaked in the bottom of the 5th inning with a nine-run inning. The Cardinals’ offense had their best game of the season, finishing with 14 runs.

When Carpenter hit his home run, the crowd in attendance (which included myself) was thrilled. Many of the fans remained on their feet to show support for the team’s struggling star. Carpenter came out for a curtain call and it was a cool moment to see.

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With superstars like Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt on the roster, not as much is asked of Matt Carpenter compared to previous seasons. His production has taken a nosedive the last few seasons. The first week of the 2021 season was more of the same. Carpenter still puts together good at-bats and still takes his share of walks. His positional flexibility can create different ways for him to get playing time.

But the most important factor to determine how much playing time Matt Carpenter will get is how well he is hitting. In the past couple of seasons, he hasn’t hit well. Some have doubted whether he had anything left in the tank, especially after a rough spring training.

To be clear, one good game on a night in which the offense as a whole could do no wrong does not mean that Carpenter is suddenly back to being a solid contributor. There needs to be much more consistency for that conclusion to be made.

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But on Tuesday night, a night that personally served as a welcomed slice of normality by being able to attend a baseball game for the first time in roughly two years, Matt Carpenter was the player he’s been throughout the course of his career. Will it last? Let’s wait and see. But maybe the St. Louis Cardinals player still has a bit more up his sleeve.

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