The Cardinals are not going home -- at least not yet -- after winning Thursday's Game 6, 10-9, in 11 innings under some of the most unprecedented circumstances possible. But the dramatics of Game 6 will hardly matter come Friday evening at Busch Stadium.
Matt Harrison will start for the Rangers, as manager Ron Washington has reiterated all week.
After a taxing regular season, the 36-year-old right-hander will take the mound on short rest for just the second time in his 14-year career -- the other occasion coming in Game 2 of the National League Division Series against the Phillies. In that start, four days after throwing a three-hitter against the Astros to send St. Louis to the playoffs, Carpenter allowed four runs in three innings.
"You learn a little bit about it," Carpenter said. "I learned what my body's going to feel like, what my stuff's going to be like."
He freely admitted that the task will be difficult. If Carpenter falters, the Cardinals will have plenty of help ready to leap from the bullpen, with nearly every member of their staff available. La Russa has a dozen pitchers listed on his postseason roster and has shown a willingness to use any and all of them in unorthodox situations.
The Rangers should also have something close to their entire staff available, including No. 1 starter C.J. Wilson. In that sense, though Game 7 should match up Carpenter and Harrison at the start, it could take on an entirely different form by the middle innings.
"We'll bounce back," Washington said. "We've been in some tough situations before. We've always responded, and I expect us to respond [in Game 7]."
As for Carpenter, the Rangers gave him few significant problems in Games 1 and 5 of the World Series, scoring four total runs off him in 13 innings. All four of those came on the strength of three homers, including solo shots from Mitch Moreland and Adrian Beltre that cost him the victory in Game 5. One of them Carpenter blamed on poor location, the other on superlative hitting.
Either way, limiting the long ball will be critical in Game 7 for the right-hander, who has allowed four homers in his last 15 innings after going 38 consecutive frames without one, dating back to mid-September.
There is some concern that such trends may signal fatigue for Carpenter, who -- more than four years removed from the most recent of his many elbow and shoulder surgeries -- has thrown a career-high 267 1/3 innings between the regular season and the playoffs. Seventy of those innings have come over the last seven weeks and change.
But Carpenter also understands his arm better than anyone and knows how much adrenaline will be coursing through his body at the start of Game 7. Fatigue should hardly be a factor for a pitcher whose season will end on Friday, one way or the other.
Come Saturday, Carpenter can rest. He can relax.
But he will be able to rest and relax much easier if he first delivers the Cardinals a championship.
"It's pretty neat," Carpenter said. "It all comes down to one game. Two teams that have been playing great baseball, working hard, and it's amazing that it all comes down to one game. It will be a lot of fun."