Chris Carpenter has won 12 games just once in his career.
Carpenter, who went 12-7 for Toronto in 1998, is enjoying the finest season of his career. The 29-year-old right-hander was just 4-5 with a 5.28 ERA during an injury-plagued 2003 season.
Carpenter allowed four runs and seven hits over 6 2-3 innings Friday in a 7-4 win over San Francisco. He gave up all but one of those runs in the first inning.
“He just missed his location (in the first inning), and that’s three runs,” St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. “But he showed a lot of toughness coming back and making his pitches. That wasn’t a great way to start, but I know we always have a chance.”
The Cardinals will now look for Carpenter to lead them to their eighth win in 10 games.
After falling to the Expos 10-6 in Tuesday’s series opener, the Cardinals rebounded with a 5-4 win Wednesday. Albert Pujols hit a game-winning homer to lead off the bottom of the ninth, helping St. Louis climb a season-high 30 games above .500 for the third time this season.
The homer was Pujols’ 31st of the season, moving him within one of Philadelphia’s Jim Thome for the major league lead.
Pujols, the defending NL batting champion, went 2-for-3 to raise his average to .323. La Russa has been impressed by Pujols’ approach at the plate this season.
“He’s smarter. The smarter he is, the more dangerous he becomes,” La Russa said. “He sees (the pitch) and he trusts his hands. It’s a great way to hit.”
John Mabry was 4-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs for St. Louis, which has the best record in the majors.
The Expos, who have the second-worst record in the NL, had won three straight and nine of their previous 11.