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Performer of the game: Cards ace Carpenter

Performer of the game: Cards ace Carpenter

Performer of the game: Cards ace Carpenter
PHILADELPHIA -- Lance Berkman might not fit the profile of someone to give an all-encompassing appraisal of Chris Carpenter's body of work, but his perspective as a former opponent turned teammate gives him plenty of credibility.

Standing in the middle of a champagne-soaked clubhouse Friday, Berkman watched as Carpenter was ambushed by teammates with chilled bottles of Ariel Brut Cuvee to the point where the pitcher could hardly see.

But Berkman's view on the scene -- and also what he witnessed in Game 5 of the National League Division Series -- was clear enough, though.

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Berkman saw a dominant performance on baseball's biggest stage, plain and simple. He also saw a pitcher who displayed something much more than talent in throwing the first postseason shutout of his career, a 1-0 gem over the Phillies.

"That's [talent] where it starts, but Carp has always been a big-game pitcher," Berkman said. "He's a guy the Cards have always turned to when they've needed to win, and he responded.

"Tonight, though, might have been his best."

Where to start?

Carpenter, who improved to 6-2 with a 2.94 ERA in 11 postseason starts, allowed three hits and struck out three. He got 16 ground-ball outs, with his defense picking him up at nearly every turn.

The NL Wild Card Cardinals, after slaying the 102-win Phillies, reducing their vaunted lineup to rubble, now head to the NL Championship Series, where they'll face the Brewers in Game 1 on Sunday at Miller Park on TBS at 2:30 p.m. CT, with first pitch at 3:05 p.m.

In what qualified as the biggest game of the season, Carpenter responded with a start that rivals any he has made in his Major League career, defeating Phillies ace and good friend Roy Halladay in doing so.

"He's the ultimate competitor," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said of Carpenter. "I think both guys were that tonight. You have to admire their performances."

Halladay, who allowed a run in the first inning and then nothing else over his next seven frames, marveled at how well his former Blue Jays teammate pitched -- though he certainly wasn't surprised.

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"Chris was unbelievable, he really was. Everything was down, everything was moving," Halladay said. "You know, especially guys like him, after his first time out, he's going to be tough. You hate to lose in a one-run game, but you have to tip your hat to him.

"He made it tough for us. He didn't give anything to us, and we were really going to have to work hard to score and he kept us quiet."

The biggest hush might have been reserved for the sellout crowd of 46,360, which stood and cheered in the ninth inning, hoping the Phillies would scratch out a run.

Chase Utley looked like he might have given them one, but his fly ball to center field to start the ninth inning was caught by Jon Jay. From there, the Phillies went quietly, as the Cardinals celebrated their first postseason series victory since 2006, when they won the World Series.

"It was an unbelievable night," Carpenter said. "First, Roy Halladay is probably at this time the best pitcher in the game, and we come out and were able to jump on him early and get a quick run, which was huge.

"Secondly, I went out and was able to do the things that I wasn't able to do in Game 2 [a no-decision], and that was get ahead in the count, control the strike zone with my fastball and use my breaking ball when I needed to."

That combination was enough to tame a Phillies lineup that showed little pop or punch in this series, scoring 10 runs over the past four games and finishing with a collective .226 batting average and a .269 on-base percentage.

"If I was looking for one pitch, I was getting another," said Phillies right fielder Hunter Pence said. "[Carpenter] definitely had his 'A' stuff and was able to miss our barrels. We kept pounding them into the ground.

"For me personally, it was different pitches every time, so it wasn't like I was pounding one pitch in the ground. He came out and earned it tonight."

The key Friday, Carpenter said, was commanding his sinker, something that proved to be tough to do in Game 2. Everything was down, the sinker and his breaking ball.

"When you do that, you get those guys who obviously are a fabulous-hitting ballclub ... you get them in swing mode," Carpenter said.

That swing mode left the Phillies with a sinking feeling by the time this one was over. It also left Carpenter with one of the best-pitched games in franchise history.

"I think he'll remember this forever, and so will the Cardinal fans, going into this game against Halladay and winning 10," said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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