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Ace's gem ranks with Cardinals' best

Ace's gem ranks with Cardinals' best

ST. LOUIS -- There have been three games played in the 102nd World Series, and in each of them, the winning pitcher might have thrown a complete game if given the chance. First, it was Anthony Reyes of the Cardinals, then Kenny Rogers of the Tigers, and then St. Louis' Chris Carpenter on Tuesday night.

It is just a further demonstration of the era of specialized relievers, and a student of Major League Baseball history could be excused for wishing just once to see a World Series complete game happen again. It makes it so much more fun to compare the present to the past, which is one of the joys of following the grand old game.

But what Carpenter did on the mound in Game 3 probably still merits some kind of place in Cardinals World Series lore, even if Braden Looper was called in to finish up the last inning of the team's 5-0 victory over the Tigers at Busch Stadium. It's OK to even mention the words "Bob" and "Gibson" in the same breath, even knowing that there was no way Gibby was ever coming out of one of those starts in the 1960s.

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Consider:

• Tuesday's victory matches the fewest hits ever allowed by St. Louis in a World Series shutout. Bill Hallahan pitched a three-hit, complete-game shutout on Oct. 2, 1931, in Game 2 against the Philadelphia A's.

• Tuesday was the first time that the Tigers have been blanked in a World Series game since Oct. 4, 1968, when Gibson was a 4-0 winner here in St. Louis in Game 1.

• It marks the sixth time that the Cardinals have allowed three or fewer hits in a World Series game -- the first since Oct. 12, 1967, when Gibson pitched a three-hitter in a 7-2 Game 7 victory over the Red Sox in Boston.

"I was looking forward to going out there tonight and finishing it," Carpenter said. "The long [eighth] inning, they came up and said they're not going to send me back out. That's not my decision to make. My job is to go out and pitch, and they make the decisions. If they take me out, they take me out."

"Clearly, he was going to be the pitcher in the ninth, I think, but we got that extra run and [the eighth inning] must have been 15 minutes long -- we just didn't think it would be worth the risk," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa explained. "We had good quality arms with Loop and Adam [Wainwright] behind him."

So, it was not a complete-game shutout, or at least a ninth-inning bid for one. It might take a 50th-anniversary re-enactment of Don Larsen's perfect game for someone to go the distance in this World Series. But as many of the 46,513 fans in attendance could attest, a win is a win is a win, and it probably was still good enough to be compared to some of the most dominating outings in Cardinals World Series history.

Here are some examples from the past:

The Bob Gibson era

In any discussion of past brilliance by St. Louis pitchers in a World Series, Gibson requires a category all to himself, and the list starts there. He won seven consecutive World Series starts encompassing the 1964, '67 and '68 Fall Classics -- all of them seven-game series in which he was a centerpiece -- and he was finally derailed by this same Tigers franchise when Mickey Lolich beat him in Game 7 in 1968.

1964: After losing his World Series debut in Game 2 against the Yankees, Gibson came back for Game 5 and was one out away from a 2-0 victory. However, Tom Tresh hit a two-run homer that forced extra innings, but Gibson was the winner in 10 innings after Tim McCarver hit a three-run homer. In the Cardinals' 7-5 victory at home in the clincher, Gibson was staked to a 6-0 lead through five, and then survived a three-run homer by Mickey Mantle in the sixth and solo shots by Clete Boyer and Phil Linz in the ninth. Gibson went the distance, a familiar refrain.

1967: Gibson pitched three complete-game victories -- Games 1, 4 and 7. The middle outing was a five-hit shutout, and Roger Maris and McCarver each backed him with a pair of RBIs as St. Louis won, 6-0. It all came down to Gibson against Jim Lonborg in Game 7 -- two pitchers with 2-0 records in the series. Gibson was pitching on three days' rest, Lonborg on two. Gibson was far superior in the 7-2 clincher, allowing just three hits while striking out 10, and he even homered off Lonborg in the fifth.

1968: It doesn't get any better than Game 1 against the Tigers. Gibson -- he of the 1.12 ERA in the regular season -- struck out pinch-hitter Eddie Mathews to open the eighth. Then, after allowing a leadoff single to Mickey Stanley in the ninth, Gibson made the great Al Kaline his record-equaling 15th strikeout victim. Norm Cash was No. 16, and Gibson struck out Willie Horton to make it 17. In Game 4, Gibson went the distance in a 10-1 victory, and finally proved human in Game 7.


Pitching dominance
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.
Year
GameResultHits
2006Game 3 Cards 5, Tigers 03
1967Game 7Cards 7, Red Sox 23
1944Game 1Browns 2, Cards 12
1944Game 6Cards 3, Browns 13
1931Game 2 Cards 2, Athletics 0 3
1931Game 3Cards 5, Athletics 22

Feels like 1985

Had Carpenter been allowed to pitch the ninth, it might have been the first complete-game shutout in a World Series for a Cardinals pitcher since Oct. 23, 1985.

On that night, John Tudor held the visiting Royals to five hits in a 3-0 victory that gave St. Louis a 3-1 series lead. Alas, it was the last victory of the series for the Cardinals, who lost a heartbreaker in seven.

Danny Cox, it should be noted, pitched seven scoreless innings of that year's oft-recounted Game 6. He left for a pinch-hitter in the eighth with St. Louis holding a 1-0 lead, and the Royals scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to win it. Pinch-hitter Jorge Orta led off with a slow roller to first baseman Jack Clark, who tossed to reliever Todd Worrell at the bag, apparently in time to retire Orta. But umpire Don Denkinger called Orta safe, and the Royals soon won it on Dane Iorg's two-run liner to right.

The Fabulous Forties

The 1946 World Series is remembered for Enos "Country" Slaughter scoring all the way from first base in Game 7 against Boston. Harry "The Cat" Brecheen escaped a two-on, nobody-out jam in the top of the ninth to seal it for St. Louis, and picked up the decision after two innings of relief, but his best work in the series had been his start in Game 2 -- a four-hit shutout and a 3-0 victory.

In 1944, when every game was played at Sportsman's Park between the two St. Louis teams of the day, Mort Cooper threw a Game 6 masterpiece. It was a seven-hit, 2-0 shutout of the Browns, and he struck out the side in the ninth for emphasis.

The Cardinals and Yankees met in the 1942-43 series, winning in that respective order. In the first of those Fall Classics -- the first one after America had gone off to war -- it was Game 3 that stood out the most for St. Louis pitching excellence. Left-hander Ernie White limited the Bronx Bombers to six hits in nine scoreless innings, a 2-0 victory. St. Louis had dropped the opener but swept thereafter.

The Gashouse Gang and beyond

The first of three Cardinals-Tigers World Series was in 1934, and brothers Paul and Dizzy Dean accounted for all the Gashouse Gang's decisions in that seven-game battle. The best was saved for last. Dizzy, despite pitching eight innings just two days earlier, allowed just six hits in an 11-0 rout for the title.

While Hallahan's 1931 gem is noted above, it is also worth noting what he had done a year earlier. Against the same A's of Connie Mack, and in the "Year of the Hitter," Hallahan was summoned for Game 3 after the travel day to take the train from Philly to St. Louis' Union Station. He went out and pitched a seven-hit shutout in a 5-0 win. The A's would rough him up in Game 6 to secure the title.

The only Cardinals World Series in which there was no dominating pitching performance was in 1928, and that's because that incomparable Yankees team from 1927 was back to sweep them that October. Babe Ruth even hit three homers in one game, the clincher.

The first World Series in Cardinals history, however, began with a bang, a seven-game victory over the Yankees. Knuckleballer Jesse Haines was the Chris Carpenter of the moment on Oct. 5, maybe even better. Haines hit a two-run homer and pitched a complete-game five-hitter.

It was just one of many spectacular outings by a Cardinals starting pitcher in a history that now includes 17 World Series. Carpenter did not hit a two-run homer. He didn't strike out 17 Tigers. He didn't even go the distance, by design of the modern system.

But baseball is a continuum and October is forever, so what Carpenter just did to the Tigers is worth comparing, anyway. And probably at least one of those aces of the past have said something along these same lines after they were finished:

"I was able to come out and throw a nice ballgame tonight."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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