"He pitched great," said Ronnie Belliard. "He's a guy where, if you give him the first strike, he's going to bury you. He went out there and threw that first pitch for a strike, and after that, he took care of business."
Two days after Tigers ace left-hander Kenny Rogers himself pitched eight shutout innings, the St. Louis ace and 2005 Cy Young winner displayed blistering stuff and impeccable command en route to his fifth win in six lifetime postseason decisions. The victory total ties him for second on the Cardinals' all-time playoff list, equal to John Tudor -- the last man to pitch a World Series shutout for St. Louis -- and trailing only Gibson.
Carpenter missed the 2004 World Series due to a nerve injury in his right biceps, and he was ready to make the most of his chance this time around.
"Missing '04 was big," Carpenter said. "I obviously wanted to be a part of it. I was a part of the team all year long and unable to pitch in the postseason. But I'm not looking back at '04. I'm looking at tonight's game, and leading up to tonight's game, I prepared myself physically, mentally and I was able to go out and do the things I know how to do and make pitches."
He was bolstered by a two-run double from another big-game Cardinal, Jim Edmonds, and a two-run error by Detroit reliever Joel Zumaya. The Cardinals didn't always make the most of their offensive chances, but those two key plays were more than enough for a vintage Carpenter.
The New Hampshire native, unbowed by chilly conditions -- it was 43 degrees at game time -- delivered a firm statement of purpose from the start. Carpenter struck out Curtis Granderson to open the game on a curveball -- the pitch that gave him the most trouble in two starts against the Mets in the National League Championship Series that were, by his standards, subpar.
After Craig Monroe flied out, Carpenter got ahead of Placido Polanco, 0-2, on a pair of hard, diving sinkers, one of which touched 95 mph, before Polanco grounded out.
And it was like that all night.
"It was like you knew it in the first inning," said St. Louis reliever Braden Looper, who pitched a perfect ninth. "You could just tell that he was on his game. In the fifth inning, you're like, 'Well, dang, he's only thrown 40 pitches, we're not going to be needed down here.' He's fun to watch when he's like that, that's for sure."
Carpenter retired the first seven Tigers batters before Brandon Inge singled up the middle, but he stranded Inge at third after a sacrifice and a wild pitch. He set down another seven in a row before Sean Casey notched the second hit, but struck out Inge to end the fifth inning. It was eight straight outs before Casey picked up the third and final hit. Carpenter didn't walk anyone.
Even a hand cramp couldn't slow Carpenter. The game was briefly delayed with one out in the seventh as La Russa and head athletic trainer Barry Weinberg inspected Carpenter's hand, but he retired the next two batters to show that he was just fine. No Tiger reached second base after Inge, and Detroit never got the leadoff man on base.
"I get out there in the seventh, and I think what they're thinking is I just got jammed [while batting]," Carpenter said. "I don't know what muscles or tendons or whatever are in there, but it felt kind of funny. It went away pretty quick and I didn't have a problem the rest of the game."
|The three hits allowed
by the Cardinals to the Tigers in Game 3 on Tuesday marked the sixth time that
the Cardinals have issued three or fewer hits in a World Series game.|
|2006||Game 3|| Cards 5, Tigers 0||3|
|1967||Game 7||Cards 7, Red Sox 2||3|
|1944||Game 1||Browns 2, Cards 1||2|
|1944||Game 6||Cards 3, Browns 1||3|
||Cards 2, Athletics 0
|1931||Game 3||Cards 5, Athletics 2||2|
So it was that a little offense was more than enough. The Cards actually looked like they were going to get a lot more than a little offense when they loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth inning. Edmonds' one-out double down the line made it 2-0, but that was all the Cards would get. After an intentional walk to Yadier Molina, Tigers starter Nate Robertson induced popups from the next two batters to escape.
It was still 2-0 in the seventh when Zumaya got himself in deep trouble -- but almost got himself out of it as well. A pair of walks brought up Albert Pujols with two on and no outs, but Pujols hit a comebacker right at Zumaya -- the kind of ball that should have gone for at least two outs. Instead, Zumaya simply threw it away on his attempt for a force at third, and both runners scored while Pujols motored all the way to second.
"When the ball was hit, I really put my head down to try to get some acceleration at second," said Preston Wilson, who scored on the play. "And when I looked up, I saw everybody looking towards third and I was like, 'Something's not right about this.' And then [third-base coach Jose] Oquendo is still waving me over there. I had no idea where the ball was until after I crossed home plate."
Things again got weird in the eighth, forcing Carpenter out of the game. Fernando Rodney faced four batters, walking two and only retiring one, before he was lifted. Zach Miner was brought in, and threw a run-scoring wild pitch and hit a batter before getting a double play to end the inning.
A normal eighth, and Carpenter would have come out for the ninth. That would have given him a chance at the first shutout with three hits or fewer by a Cards pitcher since Bill Hallahan in 1931. Instead, he settled for merely spectacular, rather than utterly historic.
"We weren't even threatening tonight," Casey said. "When a pitcher's doing that, you know he's got pretty good stuff."