The Cardinals are 48-17 over the last three seasons with Carpenter at the mound hope their ace continues his solid start when they open a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday at Busch Stadium.
As the anchor of one of the strongest pitching staffs in the National League, Carpenter has gotten off to a good start this season, pitching eleven straight scoreless innings in his last two starts while having one of the league’s lowest ERAs.
He lasted eight innings in his last start on April 19 against the Pirates, giving up two hits and no runs while striking out six. The 10-year veteran right-hander has won five straight decisions against the Pirates and is 6-1 lifetime with a 2.62 ERA versus Pittsburgh.
Carpenter (2-1, 1.67 ERA) is hoping to defend his Cy Young title in his third season with the team after winning 21 games last season for the Cardinals.
“He’s got three different fastballs,” said manager Tony La Russa. “He’s got a curve. He’s got a change. He’s got five or six different things that he throws to a guy. That’s why he gives different looks to different hitters, different times through the lineup. He’s really a handful.”
St. Louis (11-7) lost the finale of its three-game series against the Chicago Cubs 7-3 on Sunday. The Cardinals had won the first two, outscoring the Cubs 13-4, but allowed three unearned runs off of three errors on Sunday. Greg Maddux shut down the Cardinals offense through seven innings.
Carpenter’s start will not provide much relief to a Pittsburgh offense that has produced little recently. The Pirates (5-15) have scored just four runs in their last four games since last Tuesday’s 12-4 win over the Cardinals.
“Everbody has put a lot of pressure on themselves,” catcher Humerto Cota said. “We just have to go out there and relax. It’s not going to get any easier.”
After being swept in a three-game series against the Astros over the weekend, the team is off to its worst 20-game start since 1957, when it started 5-15 en route to a 62-92 finish. With the prospect of facing three pitchers in this series who won a combined 53 games last season for the Cardinals— Carpenter, Jeff Suppan and Mark Mulder—the Pirates are trying to stay positive.
“It’s one of those things where you have to keep playing,” Jack Wilson said. “You can’t look at your record right now because it’s only going to put you in a bad mood.”
Wilson was 3-for-4 on Sunday against Houston, extending his hitting streak to six games, but he has had little success against Carpenter in his career, going 1-for-16 with two strikeouts.
The Pirates are hoping to get a repeat performance when they put Oliver Perez (1-2, 6.75) on the mound. He was the pitcher in their last win against St. Louis. The 24-year-old left-hander had his best start of the season in that game, giving up just three runs in 6 2-3 innings.