ST. LOUIS -- With Carlos Beltran returning to the Cardinals' lineup for Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, Matt Carpenter makes his way back to the bench. He'll take his place there, though, with the Cardinals leading the series, 3-1, over the Giants largely because of his own contributions.

Carpenter's two-run home run lifted St. Louis to a 3-1 win in Game 3. One night later, Carpenter, making his first start of the postseason, reached base in each of his first three plate appearances and scored twice in the team's 8-3 victory.

"This is crazy," Carpenter said of his first playoff experience. "I feel fortunate and excited and happy to be a part of it. It's awesome. We're really excited to be at this point."

Carpenter can credit his postseason opportunity to the work he did under no spotlight last winter. It was with his dad and a former college coach that Carpenter tapped into his versatility. The work paid off when, during Spring Training, Carpenter proved capable of playing first base and the two corner outfield spots. That earned him a place on the team's Opening Day roster.

Carpenter never came off, finishing his rookie season with a .294 average and 46 RBIs in 114 games.

"It's a pretty strong statement with the lineup we have that there are days when we just know that he's going to be an impact bat for us," manager Mike Matheny said. "He's had a great season for us -- and the fact that we've had different guys go down, and he's able to step in no matter what we ask of him."

Cardinals have well-rested bullpen for Game 5

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals had a rested relief corps entering Game 5 of the National League Championship Series with a chance to close out the Giants, thanks to Adam Wainwright's marvelous seven-inning start and an offensive breakout in an 8-3 Game 4 victory.

NLCS

That combination allowed Cardinals manager Mike Matheny to stay away from his late-inning triumvirate of Edward Mujica, Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte, each of whom had pitched in Game 3, including Motte for a two-inning save.

"It's good to get a day off," Motte said, "but at this point of the season, everyone is ready to go. It's pretty much all hands on deck. So if the phone would have rang, we would have gone out there and done everything we could."

Motte said he would have been available in Game 4 after logging the first two-inning save of his career the night before. He was particularly efficient, throwing only 19 pitches.

Motte pitched in five of the Cardinals' first 10 games this postseason, Mujica in six and Boggs in seven. Boggs was the staff's workhorse, tying for third in the NL with 78 appearances in the regular season.

At this point in the season, are arms naturally dragging?

"Yeah and no," Motte said. "It is October, but we do our arm stuff and our shoulder exercises. We do what we need to do to keep our arms in shape. There may be some fatigue, but you do what you need to do to get out there, and when you do get out there, you're not thinking about that. You need to be thinking about executing pitches."

Schoendienst a 'treasure' for Matheny, Cards

ST. LOUIS -- The parade of Cardinals greats is continuous at this time of the season. Stan Musial made a surprise ride around the ballpark prior to Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, which was also preceded by an appearance from shortstop Ozzie Smith. On Friday it was Mike Shannon -- former Redbird, current commentator -- throwing out that ceremonial first pitch.

But as the carousel of franchise icons passes through this postseason, the constant presence of Red Schoendienst quietly continues.

Schoendienst, who has been involved in professional baseball for the last 70 seasons, spent 12 years managing the Cardinals, beginning in 1965. He managed the club to a World Series championship in 1967 and later served as an interim manager in 1980 and 1990. Before that, he played 15 seasons in St. Louis.

Now a special assistant to general manager John Mozeliak, Schoendienst remains an active observer. For the majority of home games this season, Schoendienst would take the field during batting practice dressed in full uniform, bat in hand. His routine has remained the same during the playoffs.

"I just stay away and watch what's going on," said the 89-year-old Schoendienst. "I have a lot of fun with what I'm doing or I wouldn't be out here. I'm glad they just let me come out. When you're around these young kids, it keeps you young. That's why I hope they'll keep letting me come around all the time. I stay out of their way."

Schoendienst will offer advice when asked but insists he's just as content to watch. Whether he realized it or not, however, first-year manager Mike Matheny spent the season absorbing from a man who has been associated with this franchise for generations.

"Every time we talk, I'm getting advice," Matheny said. "He is a sharp, sharp baseball man. And so we'll have short conversations, and he'll give me something really quick where he thinks it's just conversation in passing, but it's something I take and I put down and remember, because this guy knows what he's doing. It's incredible what jumps out to him and the things that he sees, because he's been in that chair before and knows what it takes. I treasure Red Schoendienst."