Chris Carpenter looks to capture his second victory of this NLDS and pitch the Cardinals into their third straight National League Championship Series on Sunday when they face the San Diego Padres at Busch Stadium.
St. Louis fell for the first time in nine playoff games against San Diego with a 3-1 loss on Saturday. The Cardinals managed only five hits, with none coming from hitters two through six in the lineup.
However, St. Louis will be able to bring Carpenter (1-0, 1.42 ERA) back on regular rest to try to clinch the series at home and avoid going to San Diego for a fifth game. That’s because the teams had off days between Games 1 and 2 as well as between Games 2 and 3.
“Well, he’s our ace,” St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols said. “Definitely you don’t want to go back to San Diego for one game.”
Carpenter was held back to start Game 1 of the playoffs rather than start the Cardinals’ regular-season finale last Sunday against Milwaukee. Although St. Louis lost to the Brewers, it still earned the NL Central division crown when Houston lost at Atlanta.
The move allowed the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner to take the mound in San Diego on Tuesday. The right-hander delivered by giving up one run and five hits over 6 1-3 innings in a 5-1 victory.
Carpenter is eager for the chance to finish the series at home, where he went 8-4 with a major league-leading 1.81 ERA in 17 starts this year.
“We’re still at the advantage,” he said. “They’ve got to win both games, we have to win one. If I get prepared and come out and treat it like I normally treat it, and that’s go out and execute and be prepared and compete, hopefully we can do the things that we did the two games in San Diego, get a couple runs and pitch well in the bullpen and do a good job and play a good game and win and celebrate at home with the fans.”
Carpenter is 2-0 with a 0.73 ERA in two postseason starts against the Padres, including six shutout innings in Game 1 of last years NLDS—a series St. Louis went on to sweep in three games.
“We got a chance to soak in what Carpenter did to us,” San Diego third baseman Geoff Blum said. “Now we have to make some adjustments. We have to relax and hit his mistakes. Hopefully, he’ll make some mistakes.”
St. Louis would also like to see Pujols duplicate his effort from the first two games—when we went 5-for-8 with a homer and three RBIs—after he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in Saturday’s loss.
Pujols and the Cardinals were held in check by San Diego starter Chris Young, who struck out nine batters and allowed four hits over 6 2-3 scoreless innings.
Young’s effort allowed the Padres to score first for the first time in the series. Russell Branyan tripled in two runs in the fourth inning and Blum followed with a sacrifice fly for all the runs the Padres needed.
It also gave San Diego a chance to get baseball’s all-time save leader Trevor Hoffman to the mound for a perfect ninth inning.
“It felt good to finally get out there,” Hoffman said. “Everything was working for me.”
The Padres opted to give Woody Williams the start on Sunday over Game 1 starter Jake Peavy. Williams led the team in victories this season, going 12-5 with a 3.65 ERA—including 5-0 with a 2.67 ERA in his last five outings.
“Probably as much as having confidence in Woody, we think Jake could use another day,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s pitched a lot down the stretch, and we’re in a situation where we need to win two games.”
Williams is 3-2 with a 5.50 ERA in seven career playoff outings. However, he’s failed to get out of the third inning in his last two postseason starts, going 0-1 with a 27.00 ERA.
The 40-year-old right-hander is familiar with the Cardinals, for whom he pitched from 2001-04. He beat them for the first time in three career outings on Sept. 26, despite giving up five runs and seven hits over six innings, in a 7-5 victory over Carpenter at Busch Stadium.
St. Louis is 19-5 all-time in Division Series play and has been forced to a fifth game only once—in 2001 when it lost to Arizona.