Carpenter's career-high 28 homers boost Cardinals offense

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ST. LOUIS (AP) Matt Carpenter really muscled up this season. The St. Louis Cardinals leadoff man hit 28 homers, more than his first three major league seasons combined.

Carpenter struck out a lot more, too, but it seemed to be a worthy trade-off.

''He's having an incredible season, an incredible season,'' manager Mike Matheny said Wednesday, two days ahead of the NL Division Series opener. ''I don't know where we'd be if he didn't have the kind of season he's had.''

The Central champions led the majors with 100 victories because of air-tight pitching, not a bruising lineup. They led the majors with a 2.94 ERA, but scored the fewest runs among the playoff teams.

The 29-year-old Carpenter also led the National League with 44 doubles.

''I've been telling Carp all year he's had a great season,'' teammate Jason Heyward said. ''It's really impressive to see somebody say they want to add that to their game and go out and do it.''

St. Louis had a power void with Matt Holliday and Matt Adams sidelined for extended periods. Holliday missed about half the season and hit just four after topping 20 the previous five seasons, and Adams had five in just 60 games after averaging 16 the previous two years.

''I think I lost my power and it's good to see Carp found his,'' Adams joked. ''For him to be able to add that to his game and go out there each night and be able to blast one out of the park, it's been fun to watch.''

Two years ago, Carpenter led the league with 199 hits - only 11 of them homers - and with 98 strikeouts. This year he led the team in homers and with 84 RBIs, and no one quibbles about the 151 strikeouts, which is 40 more than his previous career high.

The homer total is the most by a St. Louis left-handed hitter since Jim Edmonds had 29 in 2005.

Randal Grichuk and Jhonny Peralta hit 17 homers apiece and Heyward and Mark Reynolds contributed 13 each.

''It happens to guys when they get a little older,'' Reynolds said. ''Maybe he realized we needed somebody to do it.''

Matheny said he never asked Carpenter to step up the power, instead crediting batting coaches John Mabry and Bill Mueller with helping tweak the mechanics of the swing.

''You've got to be careful doing that, and then watch what those long swings turn into,'' Matheny said. ''Matt's made a great adjustment.''

Carpenter also has been versatile in the field, switching to second base two years ago.

Carpenter had some fatigue issues early on, and missed a trip to Pittsburgh in May due to an accelerated heart rate from the grind of the season.

That was the only time off he needed. The biggest break of all came when Matheny put him back at leadoff July 30.

''It's not easy doing what he did, and doing it at this park especially,'' Wong said. ''This guy, he's been locked in the whole season.''

Carpenter batted .322 with a franchise-record 22 homers along with 50 RBIs batting leadoff, and just .225 with six homers and 33 RBIs hitting second.

He's hot heading into the NL division series after homering eight times the final month. That could be bad news for St. Louis' opponent, recalling that last fall he became the first player in franchise history to homer in three consecutive games of a postseason series against the Dodgers in the divisional round.

''Did any one of us think he'd be sitting where he right now?'' Matheny said. ''I knew he could most likely hit 20, but he's done it in a fashion that's been very impressive and timely, too.''