ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Cardinals’ other Carpenter is fast making a name for himself.
Rookie Matt Carpenter, no relation to injured pitcher Chris Carpenter, made his first opening day roster because of Skip Schumaker’s spring training injury. He’s getting a chance to play because Lance Berkman and David Freese have been nursing minor injuries.
When those guys come back, at the very least the Cardinals will have a very valuable bench piece.
“Berkman’s, he’s in there joking, ‘We found our first baseman,’” manager Mike Matheny said. “It’s a great reward when you see somebody work as hard as Matt did.”
The rookie homered, tripled and drove in five runs, backing strong pitching from Jake Westbrook in a 10-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday.
“The boy can swing it, there’s no doubt about it,” Cubs outfielder Joe Mather said. “Looks like he’s here to stay.”
Cubs starter Paul Maholm (0-2) surrendered six runs in four innings. The left-hander is 0-7 with a 7.03 ERA in nine starts since his last win on July 10, 2011 against the Cubs when he was with Pittsburgh.
“I couldn’t tell you the last time I won,” Maholm said. “So my goal is to go out there and go seven innings and win the game no matter how the outing before went or whether it was good or bad, and that’s what I’m going to expect next week when I take it.”
The 26-year-old Carpenter is batting .409 with 10 RBIs in 22 at-bats, following up on success in spring training when he led the team with 25 hits. He singled his first two trips with an RBI, belted a two-run shot to straightaway center off Lendy Castillo in the fifth for his first career homer and added a two-run triple off Rodrigo Lopez in the seventh.
“We’ve got some guys dinged up, so the opportunty’s there, I’m just trying to make the most of it,” Carpenter said. “I couldn’t tell you if I would have dreamed of having a day like this.
“You’re just up there trying to grind it out and I was fortunate to have a pretty successful day.”
Berkman missed the weekend series with a strained left calf but did some running Sunday and could be back Tuesday when the Cardinals open a three-game series against the Reds. Freese also could be back from an injured right ring finger, but outfielder Carlos Beltran was taken out in the sixth, four innings after he was hit by a pitch on the right forearm when he had trouble throwing.
“They both came in swearing up and down that Tuesday’s their day, so we’ll see what happens,” Matheny said.
Yadier Molina hit a three-run homer in the third and has six RBIs the last three games. Plus he threw out Marlon Byrd attempting to steal in the third.
Westbrook (2-0) allowed one earned run in seven strong innings, following up on his debut in which he gave up an unearned run in seven innings at Cincinnati. He dropped 20 pounds in the offseason after a disappointing 2011 in which he went 12-9 but with a 4.66 ERA and was virtually unused in the Cardinals’ World Series championship run.
Westbrook pounded his sinker for 12 ground ball outs, and allowed four hits. He threw first-pitch strikes to nine of his first 11 batters.
“That’s how I’m able to be successful, when I get ahead and control some counts,” Westbrook said. “Just keeping the hitters on their toes.”
Reed Johnson had two hits and an RBI for the Cubs, who scored their second run on a wild pitch. They were outscored 15-4 the last two games after hammering Adam Wainwright in St. Louis’ home opener for a 9-5 victory.
Westbrook allowed an unearned run in seven innings in his first start at Cincinnati. He’s gotten plenty of support, with St. Louis scoring 17 runs his first two outings.
The Cardinals needed one hit to score twice in the second, with Carlos Beltran hit by a pitch and Molina walking setting the table to start the inning. Carpenter followed with an RBI single and Shane Robinson beat out the relay on a double play ball for a run-scoring groundout.
Rafael Furcal had been 0-for-12 before doubling to start a four-run third capped by Molina’s homer.
After two starts, Maholm is saddled with an unsightly 13.50 ERA.
“It wasn’t real pretty again,” manager Dale Sveum said. “I just think he’s got to keep the sinker down.
“For the most part, the command and making the pitch when you had to make the pitch, he hasn’t been able to do that so far.”
The Cardinals are 12-6 against the Cubs the last two seasons and 8-2 at home.
Notes: The Cubs had been 8-for-10 on steals before Byrd was thrown out. … Westbrook threw first-pitch strikes to nine of his first 11 batters. … Two members of the Cubs rotation have no wins since July 10, 2011, with Chris Volstad 0-6 with a 4.17 ERA since beating the Astros. … Beltran is batting .429 (9-for-21) with two homers and six RBIs against Maholm. … Schumaker (oblique) began his rehab with Triple-A Memphis Sunday and was 0-for-2, while turning a double play at second base. … Matt Holliday had been 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position before his RBI single in the third. … Carpenter is the Cardinals’ first rookie to get four hits since Daniel Descalso on July 6, 2011 against the Reds. He’s the team’s first rookie to get five RBIs since Freese had six on April 29, 2010 against the Braves.