Carpenter builds 2-1 lead

Cardinals starter makes up for lost time in Series gem

Cardinals 5 Tigers 0

World Series

October 25, 2006|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,SUN REPORTER

ST. LOUIS -- There were no dirt smudges, damning TV close-ups or cheating accusations whispering in the wind last night during Game 3 of the World Series.

The only important similarities between Sunday's soap opera at Comerica Park and what happened at Busch Stadium yesterday were the bone-chilling cold, more hint of redemption and another tremendous pitching performance for the ages.

This time it was St. Louis ace Chris Carpenter, who delivered a shutout performance from a conventional, one-toned palm. His supremely efficient outing ushered St. Louis to a 5-0 win and a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-seven World Series.

Unlike Detroit's Kenny Rogers, who threw a masterpiece Sunday that has since been marred by the suspicion that he used a foreign substance in the first inning, the only thing filthy about Carpenter was his assortment of pitches.

Each one, it almost seemed, went exactly where he wanted. He threw 82 pitches, and 55 were strikes. Incredibly, Carpenter had only one inning in which he made more than 12 pitches. He walked none, struck out six and surrendered just three hits. Never did more then one Tiger reach base in any inning.

A whole vat of pine tar might not tarnish this one.

"He showed everything he could do," said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. "He's got a lot of weapons."

Said Carpenter: "I came out tonight and had my good stuff."

"We need to swing the bats better, obviously," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.

The game-time temperature was 43 degrees, actually 1 degree colder than the much ballyhooed freeze in Detroit for game time Sunday night. For the first three innings, the bats were also frigid, thanks to an old-time pitchers' duel between Carpenter and unheralded Detroit left-hander Nate Robertson.

Carpenter retired the first seven batters he faced, gave up a single to Detroit third baseman Brandon Inge, and then rolled off six more consecutive outs before another innocuous single. Through five innings, the 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner had surrendered just two singles and had thrown an economical 50 pitches.

Robertson was even better than Carpenter - at least through three innings.

Besides a second-inning walk to Jim Edmonds, Robertson was perfect through the game's first third. He lost his no-hit bid to begin the fourth, and, shortly thereafter, his shutout evaporated.

St. Louis left fielder Preston Wilson led off with a single and Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols followed with a double that hopped the right-field wall. Scott Rolen walked to load the bases, and after a forceout at home plate, Edmonds doubled down the right-field line, scoring two.

Robertson escaped the trouble with consecutive pop-ups, and didn't yield a run in the next inning, either. He left for a pinch hitter in the top of the sixth - after giving up five hits, three walks and two runs in five innings. A solid outing for someone who hadn't pitched in 13 days, since a five-inning blanking of the Oakland Athletics in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series Oct. 10.

The Cardinals padded the lead in the seventh, when Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya walked two batters before snagging a comebacker. The vaunted rookie attempted to throw to third for a key forceout. But his wild toss skipped past third baseman Inge and caromed around the foul territory in left field. Two Cardinals scored - including Wilson from first base - to make it 4-0.

The runs were welcomed, but unnecessary.

Because of Carpenter.

The big right-hander wasn't giving the lead back. Not in the World Series. Not against the Tigers.

When the Cardinals made it to the Fall Classic in 2004 against the Boston Red Sox, Carpenter couldn't pitch. A biceps strain, later determined to be nerve irritation in his right arm, forced him to be a bystander while his club was swept in four games.

He threw on the side and wanted to get in a game, but the Cardinals decided against it. That was tough for him to take.

"It was disappointing, but it was a smart decision, the right decision I believe," Carpenter said Monday. "They were looking out for my career."

A career that's included the 2005 NL Cy Young Award and likely a top three finish this year.

But in another impressive campaign for Carpenter, there were a few blemishes. Like an interleague contest June 23 at Detroit. Carpenter was blasted for seven earned runs in seven innings.

He said before yesterday's outing that he wasn't dwelling on that disaster in Detroit, but he wasn't forgetting it either.

The stage was different, of course. And so was the setting. Carpenter had a 1.81 ERA during the regular season while pitching at Busch Stadium.

But he pitched with an extra edge yesterday, one that demonstrated that there'd be payback to the Tigers. And one that showed how badly he wanted to excel in the World Series after watching helplessly last time.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

Game 4: Tigers@Cardinals, tonight, 8:27, chs. 45, 5 Starters: Detroit (Bonderman 14-8) vs. St. Louis (Suppan 12-7)

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