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Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Chris Carpenter adds to postseason legend

By David Schoenfield

The first postseason game in our nation’s capital since 1933 proved an ugly disaster for the home fans. The Cardinals scored one run in the first off Edwin Jackson, and then unlikely postseason hero Pete Kozma -- doing his best impersonation of Bucky Dent or Brian Doyle or Cody Ross -- slugged a three-run homer in the second to give the Cardinals a 4-0 lead.

From there, Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals' bullpen cruised to an 8-0 victory to take a 2-1 series lead.

Jayson Stark summed up the 37-year-old in his opening sentence in his story leading into the game: "On Wednesday afternoon in Nationals Park, a man will take the mound who has no business being there."

Carpenter, who missed most of the season recovering from shoulder surgery, didn’t exactly carve up the Nationals, allowing seven hits and striking out only two batters, but in typical Carpenter fashion, he gutted it through 5 2/3 innings and got the big outs with runners on base, most notably striking out Mike Morse with two runners on in the first and retiring Morse again on a fly to right with the bases loaded to end the fifth.

St. Louis' Chris Carpenter
Chris Carpenter, who didn't record a win during the regular season, held the Nationals scoreless in 5 2/3 innings Wednesday.
The score was still 4-0 at that point, and Carpenter had been careful with the previous batter, Adam LaRoche, walking him on seven pitches despite getting ahead in the count 0-2. But the righty-righty matchup against the free-swinging Morse is a better matchup for Carpenter. Morse swung and missed at a curve, took another curve in the dirt for a ball, and then Carpenter jammed Morse just enough on a 92 mph cutter. It was a perfect example of the savvy approach of a veteran who knows what he’s doing: First, see whether Morse will chase something; then, knowing you can’t let Morse extend his arms, go inside. Beautiful.

In his postgame on-field interview, Carpenter said LaRoche had put some good at-bats on him in the past. "In no way was I going to let him hurt me. If he walks he walks," he said of that situation.

Carpenter’s postseason legacy is starting to build. In 16 career playoff starts, he’s 10-2 with a 2.88 ERA. He’s been the ace on two World Series champions. His best postseason outings include eight shutout innings against the Tigers in Game 3 of the 2006 World Series, a memorable 1-0 complete-game win over Roy Halladay in Game 5 of last year’s NL Division Series, his gutsy effort on three days’ rest in Game 7 of the last year’s World Series and now this game, performing at a high level when he wasn’t even expected to be here a couple of months ago.

"It was just a constant grind," Carpenter said. "I made pitches when I had to. When you get to this situation in the postseason, you just give it all you got and go as long as you can and turn it over to the bullpen."

A fun stat that sums up Carpenter’s outing: He became just the second pitcher to start and win a postseason game after not winning a game during the regular season, joining Virgil Trucks of the 1945 Tigers, who returned from military service, started once in the regular season and then twice in the World Series.

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