Filling in for injured first baseman Lance Berkman, rookie Matt Carpenter constructed the best game of his young career in a 10-3 win over the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium.
The left-handed-hitting TCU product hit a two-run homer, a 428-foot blast that was his first home run in the majors. His second big-league triple came in the seventh and also drove in two runs.
Carpenter singled home a run in the second and had another single in the third. He is the first Cardinals rookie to have four hits and five RBI in the same game since Joe Hague in 1970.
"Lance who?" inquired Cardinals hitting coach Mark McGwire.
Berkman, who has been out four games with a strained left calf, said, "I'd be more than happy to stay on the bench if he's going to continue to hit like that. If they need me, I'll be available. They may not. They certainly didn't need me this weekend."
After leading the Cardinals in hits and extra-base hits this spring, Carpenter earned a berth on the Cardinals' bench at the start of the season. But he hasn't sat there very much.
The 26-year-old has started the last four games in place of Berkman and gone eight for 16, including seven hits in three games on the Cardinals' first home stand before three sellout crowds. He is hitting .409.
"I don't think I could have written it up any better," said Carpenter. "This is one of those just special days, special weekends."
C Yadier Molina, who knocked in three runs with his third homer, isn't surprised by the Cardinals' 7-3 start.
"We had a good spring training (16-9-2). That tells you we were ready for the season," Molina said.
Molina, who led the World Series champions in batting average at .305 last year, has hiked his offense to match his defense.
Manager Mike Matheny said, "He's as good as anybody as far as separating (offense and defense) and letting those pitchers believe that they are the most important thing in the world and that he's forgotten his at-bat. But he hasn't had too many that he's had to forget."
RF Carlos Beltran had to come out of Sunday's game in the sixth when it bothered him to throw after he had been hit in the right forearm by a pitch from Chicago LHP Paul Maholm in the second inning. "I'll be good," said Beltran. "No big deal. It won't be an issue."
1B Lance Berkman, out a fourth straight start with a strained left calf, ran in the outfield before the game. "Lance is feeling much better. I know that he's close," said Matheny.
3B David Freese missed a second game because of a finger issue on his right hand, but Matheny said Berkman and Freese "both came in swearing up and down that Tuesday is their day." The Cardinals are off Monday.
RHP Scott Linebrink, who is on the disabled list, will test his previously sore right shoulder in a throwing session Monday. "There are no days off when you're on the DL," Linebrink said.
OF/INF Skip Schumaker (strained oblique muscle) made his first rehabilitation appearance for Class AAA Memphis and went 0-for-2 with a walk in two at-bats and turned a double play at second base.
C Tony Cruz, who had appeared in only one game, got an eighth-inning at-bat and doubled off the center-field wall. Matheny expressed frustration at not getting Cruz more time, but Cruz said, "I told him I understand. That's part of the gig—the backup job."
LF Matt Holliday's third-inning single that knocked in a run was his first hit with men in scoring position in 10 at-bats. The Cardinals have survived this outage from their No. 3 hitter. Their team average is .299.
BY THE NUMBERS: 2 - Two-game hitting streak for RHP Lance Lynn, who has only two hits in his career.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's the end of the dream." - Former manager Tony La Russa after getting his 2011 World Series ring during a ceremony Saturday.
1B Lance Berkman (strained left calf) missed a fourth straight start, but he ran in the outfield before the game and could be back Tuesday.
3B David Freese (finger) missed two games but could return Tuesday.
RHP Scott Linebrink (right shoulder capsulitis) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 30.
RHP Chris Carpenter (weak right shoulder) still is building back his strength. He isn't likely to begin a real throwing program until May and probably won't pitch until at least June.
2B Skip Schumaker (torn right oblique) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26. He made his first rehabilitation appearance for Class AAA Memphis and went 0-for-2 with a walk in two at-bats and turned a double play at second base.
LF Allen Craig (right knee surgery in November 2011) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26. He might begin a minor league rehab assignment by mid-April.