Matt Carpenter: 2014 TCN/Scout.com NLDS MVP

St. Louis third baseman Matt Carpenter is The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com 2014 National League Division Series Most Valuable Player.

Continuing the tradition started in 2005, The Cardinal Nation is stepping up to fill a void ignored by Major League Baseball. The League Division Series has always been MLB’s red-haired post-season stepchild.

First off, the series is just five games instead of seven like the League Championship and World Series. To make matters worse, fans have to search for the games, as they are often held at odd and floating times and not televised on networks universally available.

As part of the second-tier status of the LDS, Major League Baseball does not see fit to name Most Valuable Players for these series only.

Our MVP

The Cardinal Nation has addressed this unmet need by naming St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com National League Division Series Most Valuable Player for 2014.

In each of the first three games of the series, the left-handed hitter both doubled and homered. His hits tied one game and put the Cards ahead in two others.

Here is how unusual his three home runs are. In his major league career, the Cardinals leadoff man had never hit more than three long balls in any month. He became only the second Cardinal to go yard in three consecutive post-season games, joining Albert Pujols (2004).

In the 2014 post-season opener, a crucial comeback win in Los Angeles, Carpenter plated four. His go-ahead three-run double in the eighth inning knocked out Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

Carpenter again selected the eighth inning for his Game 2 heroics. His two-run home run tied the game at 2-2 before the Dodgers came back against the Cardinals bullpen.

In the third inning of Game 3, Carpenter’s solo shot broke a scoreless tie in a contest that St. Louis eventually won, 3-1.

Another of the Cardinals’ Matts, Matt Adams, was the Game 4 hitting star, as Carpenter went 0-for-4.

Still, the 28-year-old finished the four-game set with an impressive slash line of .375/.412/1.125/1.537. Carpenter went 6-for-16, with all hits going for extra bases. He drew one walk, scored four runs and plated seven.

Other Cardinals LDS standouts

Second baseman Kolten Wong batted just .182 in the series, but had arguably the biggest hit. His two-run go-ahead home run in the seventh inning of Game 3 enabled the Cards to take a two games-to-one lead.

The final nail in the Dodgers’ coffin was driven in by Wong’s partner on the right side of the infield. First baseman Adams’ three-run blast pushed the Cardinals ahead while knocking out Kershaw in the seventh inning of the deciding Game 4.

Outfielder Jon Jay had five singles in 11 at-bats (.455), drew a walk, was hit by a pitch and scored a run.

October veteran John Lackey threw seven innings of one-run ball in Game 3. The right hander gave up just five hits and a walk, fanning eight Dodgers.

Shelby Miller made his first post-season start in the finale, finishing just one out short of a quality start. The 23-year-old yielded two runs on five hits and three walks. Miller fanned four Dodgers.

Speaking of quality starts, that is what the Cardinals received from Game 2 starter Lance Lynn. The right-hander allowed just two scores on seven hits and two walks. Lynn struck out eight.

Relief standouts include Marco Gonzales (two wins), Pat Neshek (three holds) and Trevor Rosenthal (three saves).

TCN’s LDS MVP history

In 2005, I created our version of the NLDS MVP Award, earned by Reggie Sanders. The well-traveled veteran outfielder drove in an amazing 10 runs in the Cardinals’ three-game sweep of the San Diego Padres.

The idea really gained traction the next year. Then-assistant general manager John Mozeliak of the Cardinals was suspected of providing several of the club’s free agent signees the sleeves out of his vest - including bonus clauses in the players’ contracts for the LDS MVP, an award that did not and still does not formally exist.

With creative thinking like that, it is no wonder Mozeliak soon moved up the ladder and has become one of MLB’s most successful general managers.

In 2006, we bestowed our LDS MVP honors upon Ron Belliard. The second baseman was only briefly a Cardinal, having signed his 2006 contract with the Indians, so he apparently had no LDS MVP clause.

It did not matter. Belliard hit .462 and made several strong defensive plays as the Cards eliminated San Diego in four games on their way to the World Championship.

In 2009, when the Cardinals were dispatched most painfully in the NLDS by Los Angeles in three straight games, I did not give an MVP award for obvious reasons.

The story was once again much better in 2011 as the Cardinals defeated the 102-win Philadelphia Phillies in a hard-fought five-game LDS. Faced with two consecutive elimination games, the Cards took both.

The culmination was our LDS MVP Chris Carpenter’s three-hit complete game shutout at Philadelphia. The veteran right-hander led the Cards to a 1-0 victory in an epic battle with another former Cy Young Award winner and personal friend, Roy Halladay.

The 2012 NLDS was sparked by an unlikely hero, second baseman Daniel Descalso. Despite having hit just .227 in the regular season, the then-25-year-old led the Cardinals in RBI, runs scored and tied for the lead in home runs during the LDS. He scored seven runs, launched two homers, drove in six with a slash line of .316/.333/.684/1.017 in the five-game series.

Last fall, Adam Wainwright opened and closed the five-game LDS with wins, both at home. In the winner-take-all finale, the right-hander scattered eight hits while dominating the Pirates in a complete-game victory. In Game 1, Wainwright allowed a lone run on three hits in seven innings and drew a full-count walk that opened the team’s seven-run third-inning offensive burst.

Over his 16 innings, Wainwright yielded just two runs for a 1.13 ERA. He scattered 11 hits, walked just one and struck out 15. The Pirates batted a collective .196 against our 2013 NLDS MVP.



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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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