Pitching his second game off the disabled list, Carpenter hopes to end the Cardinals’ recent trend of poor performances by their starting pitchers as they face the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday.
Carpenter (4-3, 2.83 ERA) was activated from the 15-day DL to start last Tuesday against the Cincinnati Reds, lasting just five innings as he gave up three runs and nine hits in a 7-0 defeat.
St. Louis manager Tony La Russa, however, was pleased with the right-hander’s first outing since May 19.
“I was really impressed with his stuff,” La Russa said. “I don’t think he pitched all that badly. I was impressed with the life of his pitches.”
Carpenter was sidelined with bursitis in his right shoulder after going 1-1 in four starts in May, allowing 15 runs and walking 12 in 25 innings. He gave up only eight runs and eight walks in 40 innings during April.
Two of his outings that month came against Pittsburgh and he won both, allowing two runs in 14 innings. He improved to 7-1 with a 2.66 ERA in nine career starts against the Pirates.
Carpenter is looking to help settle a St. Louis starting rotation which has been ripped for 37 runs and 61 hits in 41 innings over the last eight games.
In the Cardinals’ weekend series against the Milwaukee Brewers, starters Mark Mulder, Chris Capuano and Jeff Suppan combined to pitch only 13 innings, one fewer than the team’s bullpen. All three decisions went to relievers as St. Louis won two of three games.
“The bullpen’s been a major strength,” La Russa said. “The starters are in a little bit of a rut right now.”
The trio of starters finished the weekend with a 9.00 ERA, giving up 13 runs and 16 hits, including four home runs, while walking 13. The bullpen, which finished the weekend with a 1.38 ERA, gave up just two runs and seven hits while striking out 16.
On Sunday, Suppan was denied his 100th career win in his fourth attempt after giving up five runs and six hits—three of which were home runs—while walking five.
Jason Isringhausen, though, was successful in recording his 20th save in 24 opportunities, tying Lee Smith’s franchise record of 160.
“It’s a great accomplishment because I’m from the area,” said Isringhausen, who grew up 35 miles from St. Louis in Brighton, Ill.
Not to be overshadowed by the strange weekend of pitching, the St. Louis hitters had a solid weekend as the team continues to make do without Albert Pujols. The Cardinals (37-25) had a combined 20 runs and 30 hits in the series, just their second since Pujols went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained oblique muscle.
The absence of the reigning NL MVP is big for Pittsburgh, which has watched Pujols amass 18 home runs and 49 RBIs in 42 games at PNC Park. It’s particularly advantageous for Oliver Perez (2-7, 7.18), who has struggled against Pujols, allowing him to hit .375 (9-for-24) with three home runs, two doubles and a triple.
“Losing Pujols is huge because he’s probably the best player in the big leagues,” Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson said. “We have to take advantage of St. Louis not having a guy like that.”
Perez is 0-2 in his last four starts and has lost two straight decisions, including a 16-9 defeat to the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday. He lasted just two innings, giving up nine runs and five hits, including a grand slam in the second inning.
After allowing four earned runs over 20 innings in his previous three starts, the left-hander has been ripped for 14 runs in five innings in his last two.
“The other four pitchers are throwing well, and I want to do the same,” said Perez, who is 2-4 with a 5.11 ERA in 10 starts against the Cardinals. “You try to forget the game and try to get better for the next start and don’t do anything you did today.”
The Pirates won three of four over the weekend against the San Francisco Giants. They are 11-6 since May 26, but are 13 games in behind the first-place Cardinals in the NL Central.