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Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter has ‘personal motivation’ after rough 2019



ST. LOUIS — This was not what Matt Carpenter or the St. Louis Cardinals envisioned when he signed a new contract.

Because when the three-time All-Star third baseman wasn’t hurt last season, he wasn’t hitting.

“I certainly was candid with our front office and our coaching staff at the end of the year,” Carpenter said Monday. “I just wanted to apologize. I felt like I’d let them down. I was really hard on myself the way that I played. I was hopeful that they still had faith in me. We had some real good conversations.”

Coming off a career-high 36 home runs in 2018 that made him an MVP candidate, Carpenter signed a $39 million, two-year deal on April 19 that included a no-trade clause.

But he wasn’t able to reverse a slow start. He was hitting .216 with 10 home runs when he was put on the injured list with a lower back strain on July 2. Carpenter was activated on July 11, placed back on the IL after fouling a ball off his foot and was out until early August.

Carpenter finished hitting just .226 with 15 home runs.

Team owner Bill DeWitt Jr. is optimistic about Carpenter returning to form.

“I think and know he wants to bounce back. He’s always been a really hard worker,” DeWitt said at the Cardinals Winter Warm-Up fan gathering. “I know he wants to get back to where he was the year before, which was pretty elite.”

“It’s just one of those situations where he had a down year and never kind of got untracked. He did play better at the end. He was disappointed with his season and he’s highly motivated to get back to being Matt Carpenter that he has been throughout his career,” he said.

First baseman Paul Goldschmidt agreed.

“I expect a huge year out of him like I always do,” Goldschmidt said. “There obviously were some ups and downs for him and really for our whole team, especially our offense. I think we’re all learning from it whether it’s myself or Carp or the team as a whole.”

Slow starts have been common for Carpenter, who turned 34 in November.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform,” Carpenter said. “I take a lot of pride into doing the things that help you have a good year. I felt like I did everything I needed to do to put myself in a position to be successful and it just didn’t work out.”

“I got off to an ugly start. It just snowballed. I felt like at times I was trying to save a season with one swing. It just wasn’t a good recipe for success and I got myself in a hole,” he said.

The Cardinals have indicated Carpenter will be their starting third baseman for 2020.

Manager Mike Shildt believes Carpenter will be help the NL Central champions be better at the plate.

“The good news is that Matt’s capable of hitting anywhere (in the lineup). I really, firmly believe that,” Shildt said. “And I also really, firmly believe he’s ready to be in a great spot to compete and help us this year and be a more complete hitter.”

Pitcher Adam Wainwright said he thinks last year might end up helping Carpenter in the long run.

“I think he probably will tell you that he needed to do a lot of things different with his swing and his approach,” Wainwright said. “I think he’s worked really hard on that in the offseason this year.”

Carpenter expects to go into camp competing for a spot.

“Just like everybody does, you have to come into spring training and try and earn a job,” Carpenter said. “It’s not a guarantee. That’s my mindset. I want to come in and find a way back on the field more consistently. You got to perform to do that. Nothing is given to you. I’m ready for that challenge.”

“Sometimes it’s good to just have years like that,” he said. “I really look at last season for me as more of a good thing than a bad thing. Was I happy I performed like I did? Of course not. But now having gone through it, I’m glad it happened. I’ve got a lot of personal motivation.”

Game notes
DeWitt confirmed the Cardinals’ payroll for 2020 will remain about $170 million and said that was “pushing the envelope.” … C Yadier Molina is in the last year his three-year $60 million contract that he said in 2018 would be his last one. Molina has played in 2,081 total games for the Cardinals and won nine Gold Gloves. He said Monday he would be open to returning to the Cardinals. “If they want me, they are the only team I want to play for,” Molina said. “If they do want to move apart, that’s it for me. I would love to play with the Cardinals.” He said there is no timing for any contract talks. “Probably two more years, would be great.”

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Oakland A’s clinch third straight playoff berth, but ‘a lot bigger goals’ remain



OAKLAND, Calif. — An AL West title will mean so much more than simply clinching a playoff berth given how the past two seasons have gone for the Oakland Athletics.

Then, the A’s might let loose and celebrate a little. But not just yet.

They secured a third straight playoff berth with Seattle’s loss to San Diego and a 6-0 win against the San Francisco Giants on Friday night, highlighted by Matt Olson‘s three-run homer.

“Clinching the playoffs is the goal every single year. Exciting, but winning the division I think is going to be a lot better for us,” winning pitcher Chris Bassitt said. “It was literally another win. We have a lot bigger goals.”

The A’s scoreboard read “POSTSEASON BOUND” high above the cardboard cutouts of fans filling the Oakland Coliseum.

Oakland is in the playoffs for the sixth time in nine seasons and now shifts its attention to the division title, which could be locked up Saturday. The A’s haven’t captured the West since 2013, winning 97 games each of the past two seasons to finish in second place behind Houston and before losing the AL Wild Card Game both years.

Olson connected in the third inning of a balanced offensive attack for the A’s in the opener of the second round of the 2020 Bay Bridge Series.

Jake Lamb‘s RBI single in the first staked Bassitt to a quick lead. The right-hander struck out seven over 6 2/3 innings to win his third straight start.

“He’s been absolutely terrific,” manager Bob Melvin said, “probably as consistent as we’ve had all year.”

Tommy La Stella and Marcus Semien also singled in runs for the A’s, who finally got a day off Thursday following a grueling stretch with 16 games in 13 days with three doubleheaders.

San Francisco hardly had to travel far to continue its road trip. The Giants were scheduled for games in Seattle earlier this week but smoke from all the West Coast wildfires created dangerous air quality and the clubs instead played at Oracle Park in San Francisco on Wednesday and Thursday. `

The A’s played a Monday doubleheader in Seattle, and players expressed concern about the air.

“The air quality is much better than we last saw it here, it certainly is better than Seattle, too,” Melvin said.

Right fielder Stephen Piscotty missed his fourth straight game with a sprained right knee. The A’s were going to put him through batting practice to determine his status for Saturday.

Also, right-hander Daniel Mengden was medically cleared from a positive COVID-19 test Aug. 28. He has been asymptomatic throughout and resumed throwing off the mound at the club’s San Jose alternate site Friday. He is slated for a simulated game Saturday.

Left-hander Jesus Luzardo starts for the A’s on Saturday afternoon, looking to end a four-start winless stretch in which he is 0-2.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Los Angeles Angels’ Albert Pujols passes Willie Mays on all-time home run list



ANAHEIM, Calif. — Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols passed Willie Mays for fifth place on the career home run list, hitting No. 661 on Friday night against Texas.

The 40-year-old Pujols connected for a solo homer with one out in the fifth inning. He sent Wes Benjamin‘s fastball on a 1-2 count over the wall in left field.

Pujols has hit five homers this season. He tied Mays last Sunday at Colorado.

It is only Pujols’ second home run since Aug. 4. He now trails only Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714) and Alex Rodriguez (696).

The Angels quickly congratulated Pujols on Twitter.

Pujols has one more season left on his contract with the Angels after this year.

Benjamin was the 428th different pitcher Pujols homered against in his career. Only Bonds has homered against more (449).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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St. Louis Cardinals put pitcher Dakota Hudson on IL with forearm strain



The St. Louis Cardinals have placed right-hander Dakota Hudson on the 10-day injured list with a strained right forearm.

Hudson left his start Thursday night after two innings due to what he described as discomfort in his right arm.

The 26-year-old is 3-2 with a 2.77 ERA in eight starts this season.

St. Louis added right-handed reliever Nabil Crismatt to take Hudson’s roster spot. Crismatt has a 3.24 ERA in 8 1/3 innings over six appearances this season.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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