Carpenter launched a tying, two-run shot in the top of the eighth inning Saturday night, but Matt Kemp homered leading off the bottom half to give the Los Angeles Dodgers a 3-2 win that evened their NL Division Series at a game apiece.
"It would have been a lot more fun to do that if we would have found a way to win that," said Carpenter, who is 4 for 8 in the series with two homers, two doubles and six RBIs.
"I'd much rather feel good at the plate now than game 161 or 30. This is when it counts. It feels good to be seeing it well," he said.
"It was there and we let it slip away," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
Dodgers starter Zack Greinke pitched two-hit ball over seven scoreless innings a night after ace Clayton Kershaw gave up Carpenter's go-ahead, three-run double in the seventh that helped the Cardinals win 10-9.
J. P. Howell replaced Greinke in the eighth and promptly gave up a single to pinch-hitter Oscar Tavares before Carpenter tied it at 2.
"They were trying to get a double play, so I was looking for a pitch up in the zone, something I could get up maybe into the outfield," Carpenter said. "I was able to get a sinker, but he left it up a little bit and I put a good swing on it."
Cardinals starter Lance Lynn gave up two runs and seven hits in six innings, struck out eight and walked two.
"I had good stuff," Lynn said. "I got myself in trouble a little at times, but I was able to get out of it for most part."
Carpenter is tied with Carlos Beltran (2013) and Daniel Descalso (2012) for third-most RBIs in an NLDS in Cardinals' history.
"He's one of those guys that's kind of a gnat for another pitcher," Lynn said of Carpenter.
No one looked happier greeting Kemp in the dugout than a once-distraught J.P. Howell, who had served up the tying homer to Carpenter. Kemp hugged Howell, who pointed skyward in relief, after connecting against Pat Neshek for his fifth hit in the best-of-five series.
"Obviously, you feel bad for a guy," Carpenter said. "But it's just one bad pitch and Kemp put a good swing on it. Neshek's been great all year for us all. He'll continue to be great for us."
Greinke struck out seven, walked two and didn't allow a runner past second base. He didn't give up a hit until the fifth, when Kolten Wong doubled down the right-field line before Greinke struck out the next two batters to end the inning.
Greinke was pretty nifty at the plate, too. He went 2 for 3 for his first career postseason multihit game, and even slid headfirst into third on Dee Gordon's single in the fifth that eluded Wong's dive at second base.
The Dodgers took a 2-0 lead in the third. Gordon's groundout to second base scored A.J. Ellis, who doubled leading off for his fifth hit of the series. Adrian Gonzalez's two-out RBI single made it 2-0, with Greinke scoring from second.
Mattingly had earlier challenged a call that Greinke was tagged out going to second. After a review, the umpires ruled him safe when Wong tagged Greinke with his empty glove after Wong had already moved the ball to his throwing hand to try for a double play.
The teams that share a combustible history in the playoffs were under control, even after Greinke hit Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay with a pitch in the first inning. Unlike a night earlier, when Yasiel Puig's plunking by Adam Wainwright triggered a benches-clearing scrum, everyone stayed put in their dugouts.
Puig, who drew attention with his neon-green batting gloves, struck out on a high fastball from Lynn in his first at-bat. Catcher Yadier Molina appeared to say something to Puig, who reacted and had to be walked part way back to the dugout by umpire Rob Drake. Puig struck out four times.
Molina and Gonzalez yelled in each other's faces in Game 1 as both benches and bullpens emptied without punches being thrown.
Cardinals: Lackey (3-3, 4.30 ERA) needs 3 2-3 innings to become the active leader in postseason innings pitched and overtake leader CC Sabathia with 107 1-3. The right-hander hasn't lost a division series game since Oct. 1, 2008, against Boston when he was with the Los Angeles Angels.
Dodgers: Ryu (14-7, 3.38) hasn't pitched since Sept. 12 while rehabbing from left shoulder irritation, but Mattingly isn't worried. "He seems to be able to not throw a whole lot and be pretty sharp," the manager said.