July 20, 2018: Matt Carpenter hits three homers, two doubles in historic 5-for-5 game

On July 20, 2018, Matt Carpenter laid claim to arguably the most productive offensive game in Cardinals history, clubbing three homers and two doubles in an 18-5 win over the Cubs.

Carpenter tied a team record with 16 total bases, matching Mark Whiten’s four-home run game on September 7, 1993. Carpenter’s five extra-base hits made him the only Cardinal in at least 110 years to total that many in a single game.[1] Exactly 14 years earlier, Albert Pujols had gone 5-for-5 with three homers and a double against the Cubs, though his total included a single for 15 total bases.

“I’ve been coaching since 1972 and I have seen five-hit days, I’ve seen five-strikeout days, I’ve seen three-homer days, but I’ve never seen anything like that,” Cardinals hitting instructor George Greer said.[2]

Carpenter got off to a slow start to the 2018 campaign, hitting below .200 as late as May 23, but as the weather heated up, so did Carpenter’s bat. Heading into the July 20 game against the Cubs, Carpenter was batting .263 and had four hits in his last three games.

Little did he know that he would surpass that total in a single Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field.

Ironically, Carpenter’s five-hit day came on a day in which he faced a tough matchup against lefthander Jon Lester. Earlier that month, Lester had been selected for the fifth and final all-star game of his career, though he didn’t appear in the contest. With a 12-2 record and 2.58 ERA, Lester hadn’t suffered a loss in nine consecutive starts. Even worse, Carpenter entered the game batting just .140 (7 for 50) against Lester with 14 strikeouts.[3]

Cubs fans got their first hint that Lester may not be at his best when Carpenter led off the game by drawing a full count, then hitting a home run just inside the right-field foul pole. The blast marked the 21st career leadoff home run of Carpenter’s career, tying him with Lou Brock for the franchise lead.[4]

“It’s super humbling to be mentioned in the same sentence as Lou,” Carpenter said.[5]

An inning later, Dexter Fowler hit an RBI double, Tommy Pham drove in a run with a single, and Carpenter pulled a two-run homer over the right-field wall to give St. Louis a 5-0 lead.

In the fourth, Carpenter collected his third extra-base hit of the game, hitting a leadoff double into the left-field gap. Lester walked Yadier Molina and Paul DeJong to load the bases before Joe Maddon replaced Lester with reliever Anthony Bass. Lester had thrown 86 pitches over three innings.

“I’ve been around long enough to wash this one aside,” Lester said.[6]

If anything, Bass actually fared worse, as Marcell Ozuna greeted him with an RBI single before he issued bases-loaded walks to Jedd Gyorko and Kolten Wong. With the score now 8-1, Maddon called upon James Norwood to escape the inning. Norwood did so, but only after Fowler drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, Tommy Pham hit an RBI single, and Carpenter collected his fourth hit of the afternoon, a two-out, run-scoring double that gave the Cardinals a 12-1 lead.

Two innings later, Carpenter came to the plate against another lefthander, 35-year-old Brian Duensing, with two runners on base. With a double-digit lead, Carpenter and manager Mike Shildt had discussed removing Carpenter from the game to allow him a half-game break.

“(Shildt) came up to me, they had the lefty on the mound, and he said, ‘Hey, what do you think,’” Carpenter said. “I was actually OK with Jose (Martinez) coming in. We had a big lead; we have a lot of games piling up in the next couple of days. I was honestly OK with it, and then I looked at the situation knowing that if I was going to get up, there was going to be runners on base, so I went back up to him and said, ‘Hey, I’ll take this last one, for sure.’”[7]

Once again, Carpenter beat the matchup, launching a three-run shot down the right-field line to make the score 15-1. It was Carpenter’s 23rd home run of the season.

When the frame ended, Shildt replaced Carpenter with Francisco Pena, who took over the catching duties while Molina moved to first base. Had Carpenter stayed in the game, his bid to reach or surpass the major-league record of 19 bases in a single game likely would have come against a position player as infielder Tommy La Stella, catcher Victor Caratini, and outfielder Ian Happ combined to pitch the final 3 1/3 innings.

“Not a lot of glory in that anyway,” Carpenter said. “I didn’t even realize at the time that it was anything historic or anything crazy, honestly.”[8]

With Carpenter watching from the dugout, backup infielders Greg Garcia and Yairo Munoz each homered to add insurance runs for the Cardinals’ bullpen. It was the first time since at least 1907 that the Cubs used multiple position players as pitchers in a game.

“There you go,” Chicago’s Kris Bryant said. “We’re making history.”[9]

Happ, who threw a scoreless ninth inning, lobbied Cubs manager Joe Maddon for the opportunity to take to the mound.

“I wish the game would have gone differently, but it was (a) pretty cool experience to be on the mound at Wrigley,” he said.[10]

The Cardinals totaled 18 hits in the win, including three from Pham and two apiece from Harrison Bader, Wong, and Fowler.

“Regardless of the situation, they were competing,” Shildt said. “I appreciate the hunger.”[11]

Flaherty allowed just one run over five innings to earn the win. Luke Gregerson and Greg Holland each threw scoreless innings of relief, and Matt Bowman allowed one run in 1 2/3 innings.

In the next day’s paper, St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Ben Frederickson described Carpenter’s historic performance this way:

Five times on Friday, Matt Carpenter bowed his back, heaved a big breath through his beard and found a pitch to feast upon.

Four-seamer. Two-seamer. Change-up. Two strikes on him. First pitch offered. Southpaw. Righty. He punished them all the same.

With no regard for human life, Carpenter in six innings silenced a Wrigley Field crowd with two doubles, three home runs, seven RBIs and 16 total bases.[12]

“I’m having a hard time coming up with words to describe a day like this,” Carpenter said. “It was ugly, for me personally, that first month from a mental standpoint. To go through that and feel like you were having good at-bats, feel like you were hitting the ball hard, and just nothing to show for it. The team getting off to a slow start offensively and in the win column, pressure was building for me. I want to be a part of this team.”[13]

Carpenter was a huge part of the team throughout the second half, helping to lead St. Louis to a 22-6 record in August, a stretch that included a season-high eight-game win streak. He finished the season with a .257/.374/.523 stat line that included 36 homers and 81 RBIs and led all Cardinals position players with 4.4 wins above replacement.

One day after his historic 5-for-5 performance, Carpenter tied Mark McGwire for the franchise record when he homered in his sixth consecutive game.[14] He credited an unlikely source for the power surge: his homemade salsa, grown in a garden Adam Wainwright built for him at the infielder’s St. Louis home.[15]

“I’m big into salsa, and I’ve just been making it,” Carpenter explained. “I just happened to bring it on the road trip and it’s going pretty well. … I’m going to keep eating it until it stops happening.”[16]


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[1] Derrick Goold, “Carpenter has historic game in win vs. Cubs,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 21, 2018.

[2] Derrick Goold, “Carpenter has historic game in win vs. Cubs,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 21, 2018.

[3] Associated Press, “Carpenter helps Cards clobber Cubs,” Belleville News-Democrat, July 21, 2018.

[4] Derrick Goold, “Carpenter has historic game in win vs. Cubs,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 21, 2018.

[5] Associated Press, “Carpenter helps Cards clobber Cubs,” Belleville News-Democrat, July 21, 2018.

[6] Teddy Greenstein, “Hammered,” Chicago Tribune, July 21, 2018.

[7] Associated Press, “Carpenter helps Cards clobber Cubs,” Belleville News-Democrat, July 21, 2018.

[8] Derrick Goold, “Carpenter has historic game in win vs. Cubs,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 21, 2018.

[9] Teddy Greenstein, “Hammered,” Chicago Tribune, July 21, 2018.

[10] Teddy Greenstein, “Players thrown into deep end,” Chicago Tribune, July 21, 2018.

[11] Derrick Goold, “Carpenter has historic game in win vs. Cubs,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 21, 2018.

[12] Ben Frederickson, “With Shildt’s backing, Fowler eyes new start,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 21, 2018.

[13] Derrick Goold, “Carpenter has historic game in win vs. Cubs,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 21, 2018.

[14] Derrick Goold, “Cards rally for a split,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 22, 2018.

[15] Derrick Goold, “Cards rally for a split,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 22, 2018.

[16] Derrick Goold, “Cards rally for a split,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 22, 2018.