Matt Carpenter always tries to stay ready, keeping an assortment of gloves nearby. That's his job.
The St. Louis Cardinals' utilityman took on a new role in Game 3 of the NL championship series: game-changer.
Carpenter hit a two-run homer after subbing for Carlos Beltran and the Cardinals chased Matt Cain before a 3 1/2-hour rain delay in the seventh inning of a 3-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday night for a 2-1 series lead.
Kyle Lohse worked around a season-worst five walks in 5 2-3 innings. Mitchell Boggs struck out Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt with two on to end the seventh. Jason Motte earned the first two-innings save of his career. It was a fitting reward for what remained of a sellout crowd of 45,850 that stuck around for a game that lasted 3 hours, 2 minutes -- about a half-hour shorter than the rain delay.
Beltran's availability for Game 4 of the NL championship series was uncertain after the St. Louis Cardinals slugger left the game with a strained left knee.
Losing Beltran for even a game or two is troubling for St. Louis given his postseason pedigree. Beltran leads the Cardinals with a .400 postseason batting average. He has three home runs and six RBIs in the playoffs this year and leads all players with eight extra-base hits.