ST. LOUIS – Matt Carpenter knew it was just a matter of time.
The veteran infielder busted out of a prolonged slump with a homer and two singles as the St. Louis Cardinals cruised to an 11-4 victory over the Colorado Rockies after a long rain delay Sunday.
Lane Thomas had a pinch-hit homer for the Cardinals, who moved 2 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Chicago Cubs in the NL Central. It is their largest lead since holding a three-game cushion on May 1.
St. Louis, which has won seven of eight and 13 of 16, swept the four-game series by a combined score of 31-12.
Carpenter entered in a 4-for-29 skid with 12 strikeouts. But the three-time All-Star broke loose by reaching base in his first four trips to the plate during a 3-for-4 performance.
He singled in the middle of a six-run second inning that broke the game open. Carpenter added a solo homer in the third to push the lead to 7-2. He walked in the fifth and singled in the sixth.
“It feels good being able to use both sides of the plate,” Carpenter said. “Hit a ball away, hit a ball in. It feels good to feel good in the box.”
Nolan Arenado and Garrett Hampson homered for the Rockies, who have dropped six of seven.
Carpenter batted .257 last season with 36 homers and 81 RBIs. He came into Sunday hitting .212, but raised the mark six points with his first three-hit game since June 17.
“Those were the Matt Carpenter at-bats that we’ve been accustomed to,” St. Louis manager Mike Shildt said. “He turned it on. He kept the line moving. It was really good to see.”
Cardinals teammate Tommy Edman, who had three hits and two RBIs, was happy to see Carpenter find his stroke.
“If he gets going like he did last year, that just adds more to our offense,” Edman said.
Ryan Helsley (1-0) picked up his first career win with 2 1/3 innings of relief. He gave up one hit, one unearned run and struck out four.
St. Louis starter Michael Wacha allowed six hits and three earned runs over 4 2/3 innings. He tied a season high with seven strikeouts.
Antonio Senzatela (8-8) was roughed up for six runs and five hits over 1 2/3 innings in his return from the minors.
“That’s really a bad game,” Senzatela said. “Not my day.”
Dexter Fowler added a two-run double in the fifth and drove in three runs.
St. Louis, which is a season-high 13 games over .500 at 71-58, erased an early 2-0 deficit. Edman broke a 2-all tie with a two-run double. Paul Goldschmidt followed with a two-run single as the Cardinals sent 12 batters to the plate in the second.
“Our offense really came alive,” Edman said.
It was the first four-game sweep of the season for the Cardinals.
Arenado, who had three hits, launched his 33rd homer in the fifth. It was his 100th RBI, giving him five successive seasons of 100 or more.
Colorado is an NL-worst 18-39 since June 21.
“We just didn’t pitch very well and they’re a hot club,” manager Bud Black said. “No excuses.”
The start was delayed by rain for 2 hours, 35 minutes.
ON THE MOVEThe Rockies optioned RHP DJ Johnson to Triple-A Albuquerque to make room for Senzatela.
TRAINER’S ROOMCardinals: INF Kolten Wong was held out of the lineup after fouling a pitch off his toe in the seventh inning Saturday.
UP NEXTRockies: RHP Tim Melville (1-0, 1.29 ERA) will face Atlanta RHP Julio Teheran (8-8, 3.53) on Monday in Denver. It is a makeup of an April 10 game that was postponed due to snow. Melville earned a win on Wednesday, allowing two hits and one run in seven innings of a 7-2 victory at Arizona.
Cardinals: RHP Adam Wainwright (9-9, 4.51) opposes Brewers LHP Gio Gonzalez (2-1, 3.64) in the first of a three-game series at Milwaukee on Monday night. Wainwright is 7-2 with a 2.60 ERA in 19 career starts at Miller Park.