Carpenter's tools lacking sharpness
Veteran pitcher has a short, bad day on the mound as Cardinals suffer heavy defeat and Giants level NL championship series at a game apiece
Chris Carpenter never felt right. There were command problems, and one pitch he wanted back that might have changed the game.
His remarkable return finally hit a rough stretch.
The St Louis Cardinals' longtime post-season ace came back from a complicated operation that removed a rib and two neck muscles just to get on the mound again this October for the reigning World Series champions.
His recent run of spectacular play-off pitching ended in one tough inning as St Louis lost game two of the NL championship series 7-1 to the San Francisco Giants and headed back home to Busch Stadium with the best-of-seven showdown tied 1-1.
"A little bit of everything," he said, addressing what went wrong. "Command wasn't good, sharpness wasn't as good as I'd like. At the end it came down to one pitch that could have changed the game around and moved on to the next inning, and I wasn't able to make that pitch."
And he's not talking about the lead-off home run by Angel Pagan in the first inning. Marco Scutaro's two-out, two-run single in the fourth put San Francisco ahead 5-1.
After Pagan's drive, Carpenter made quick work of the Giants with consecutive 11-pitch innings before a mistake-filled fourth did in the Cardinals.
And, strangely enough on this night, Carpenter might have helped the Cardinals more with his bat than his arm. He hit an RBI double in the second inning off Ryan Vogelsong for St Louis' lone run.
"I got lucky," he said. "You get lucky every once in a while."
In the fourth, Carpenter was charged with a throwing error when he fielded Brandon Crawford's tough chopper to his left and made a rushed throw to first that was out of reach for Allen Craig. That allowed the go-ahead run to come home, and San Francisco added another when leftfielder Matt Holliday misplayed Scutaro's hit and a third run scored on the play.
Carpenter's night was done after that, a 29-pitch inning. The bearded right-hander took a seat in the dugout, stone faced and seemingly unfazed. He allowed two earned runs, five in all, and six hits in four innings - and his post-season ERA in two outings this year is still an impressive 1.86. "I'm not going to make going to make excuses about what was going on," Carpenter said. "I just didn't have good stuff tonight and I didn't pitch well."
He certainly will be eager for another chance, and soon: Carpenter is ultra-competitive, one of the Cardinals' most decorated players and their pitcher with the most wins in the post-season with 10 victories.
Carpenter played a key role during last year's title run, going 4-0, with wins in the division series clincher and again in the decisive game seven of the World Series against the Texas Rangers.
After Carpenter went winless in his very short regular season, there he was throwing shutout ball in an 8-0 game three win in the division series against Washington last Wednesday - 523 scoreless innings to be exact.
"I thought he threw pretty well," manager Mike Matheny said. "A couple of things added up. The real hard-hit balls ended up just stacking on top of each other. He's been real sharp lately. We have faith in him and know he'll come out next opportunity and make good pitches for us."