ST. LOUIS — The Cardinals know their regular-season ended with Sunday’s rain-shortened loss to the Cubs at Busch Stadium. They know the win by the Giants confirmed their flight to Los Angeles to meet the Dodgers in the wild-card game on Wednesday night.
Sunday also ended with a lot of unknowns for both the Cardinals, and for Matt Carpenter.
If the Cardinals are going to play another game at home before next April, they will have to beat the 106-win Dodgers to advance to the Division Series.
It also won’t be known for a while if Sunday’s game was the final game for Carpenter as a member of the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
That wasn’t something Carpenter was ready to think about after Sunday’s game, a day when he did make certain he walked on the field before the game, and took pictures with his family on the field after the game.
“Trying to soak up every moment,” Carpenter said. “It was pretty special for sure.
“Right now it’s really hard to put your thoughts or your focus on anything other than what we have in store for us on Wednesday. My focus is for our club, doing whatever I can, to help guys be ready to play that game and if I get an opportunity to come up and take a pinch-hit at-bat, that is my sole focus. I really haven’t thought much about anything other than that to be honest.”
Carpenter, who has an option on his contract for next season, came into Sunday’s game in the third inning, replacing Paul Goldschmidt. He got an infield hit on a slow roller in the fifth and had a chance for a signature moment at Busch when he came to bat with two runners on and two outs in the seventh, the Cardinals trailing by a run, and the rain falling.
On the second pitch, he hit a line drive which looked for a moment like it might be headed into the right-field corner but instead landed foul. He then flew out to right in what turned out to be the final at-bat of the game.
“When I hit it, I thought I might have a chance to sneak the double down the line but it just started hooking on me a little bit,” Carpenter said. “The pitch was a little bit inside, so it was hard to keep inside and keep it fair, but definitely for a moment thought I had snuck it in there.”
Manager Mike Shildt was hoping so too, both because of what it would have meant to the outcome of the game and what it could have meant for Carpenter.
“I don’t want to close a door that’s not closed, who knows what the future brings,” Shildt said. “We expect to come back and play more baseball and Carp is going to be a part of that. But there is a possibility that could have been Carp’s last opportunity here. It would have been a nice moment, but let’s think his big moments are still to happen here at Busch Stadium.”
This has been another struggling season for Carpenter, who finished the year with a .169 average. He knows he can put those results behind him starting on Wednesday.
“I would gladly have a season where you didn’t do what you felt like you could do from a production standpoint, I would go through that again to be able to get a couple of big hits that helped change a game in the playoffs and help us advance in this first round,” Carpenter said. “Those are the ones that really matter, the ones you want to come through for.
“Hopefully I get another opportunity and I’ll be ready for it.”
Here is how Sunday’s game broke down:
At the plate: The Cardinals started the lineup they likely will start against the Dodgers, but pulled Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Tyler O’Neill early, and had Yadier Molina finish the game at first base … Tommy Edman led off the bottom of the first with a home run and they scored their second run in thr second when Dylan Carlson drew a leadoff walk, went to third on a single by Harrison Bader and scored on a double-play grounder hit by Edmundo Sosa.
On the mound: Jake Woodford allowed a run in the first inning, but then blanked the Cubs over the next three innings. Four consecutive batters reached base in the fifth, when the Cubs scored their other two runs … In his second relief appearance, Jack Flaherty prepped for his role in the playoffs by working a perfect sixth inning with two strikeouts … T.J. McFarland struck out the side in the seventh … Alex Reyes was set to start the eighth when the game was halted.
Key stat: Arenado and O’Neill tied for the team-high with 34 home runs, Arenado drove in a team-high 105 runs and Goldschmidt led the team with a .294 average, finishing with 99 RBIs.
Worth noting: Jordan Hicks got the start for Memphis in the Triple-A team’s final game of the season on Sunday and gave up home runs to the first two hitters he faced. He allowed only one other hit, walked one and struck out two in his two innings. He threw 31 pitches, 20 for strikes … Retiring broadcaster Mike Shannon was presented with a golf cart in a pre-game ceremony and the radio broadcast booth at Busch was renamed “Shannon broadcast booth” in his honor … St. Louis native Gerry Davis worked his 5,000th career game. He is expected to retire after the season.
Looking ahead: It will be Adam Wainwright against St. Louis native Max Scherzer as the Cardinals play the winner-take-all Wild Card game on Wednesday night in Los Angeles. The game will begin at 7:10 p.m. St. Louis time and will be televised by TBS.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains