Chris Carpenter has already surpassed his innings total from two seasons ago, and is close to moving past last year’s total.
He will seek to follow up a spectacular 2009 debut with another strong performance as the St. Louis Cardinals try to push their winning streak to six games on Tuesday night when they continue their three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Carpenter (1-0, 0.00 ERA) pitched only 15 1-3 innings last season in his return from reconstructive elbow surgery, and had surgery after the 2008 season to relieve nerve irritation in the elbow. He pitched only six innings in 2007 before the elbow problems surfaced.
“We’ve lived with it for two years, and it’s been a constant aggravation,” St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. “I’m very aware of it.”
The Cardinals (6-2) were cautious with Carpenter this season, choosing not to start him on opening day. He says he feels as good as he ever has and went out and proved it Wednesday by allowing one unearned run and one hit over seven innings against Pittsburgh in a 92-pitch outing in a 2-1 victory.
“It’s felt normal,” Carpenter said. I’ve been feeling normal all spring, my stuff has gotten better and better, I feel, each time out.”
La Russa said afterward that he was going to limit Carpenter to seven innings no matter how low his pitch count was Wednesday.
The right-hander is 3-0 with a 2.54 ERA in five career starts against the Diamondbacks, winning all three outings at Chase Field.
Carpenter is probably not the pitcher the Diamondbacks (2-5) would like to face as their offense has disappeared during a three-game skid within this season-opening nine-game homestand. They have scored four runs during the losing streak, and fell 2-1 on Monday to start this series.
Albert Pujols continued his fast start with his fourth home run and Brian Barden, who broke into the majors with Arizona two years ago, added a tiebreaking solo shot in the eighth inning for his first career home run.
Barden said he had no hard feelings toward the Diamondbacks but said he hoped to “show those guys that maybe they missed out on something.”
Chad Tracy’s RBI double in the fourth inning was all Arizona mustered. The Diamondbacks have scored 24 runs - the second-lowest total in the NL.
“The way we’re swinging right now, we’re frustrated,” Arizona manager Bob Melvin said.
Melvin will send St. Louis native Max Scherzer to the mound. He will be activated off the disabled list after beginning the year on it with lingering shoulder soreness.
The 24-year-old right-hander made 16 appearances last year for Arizona, including seven starts. He went 0-4 with a 3.41 ERA as a starter.
His final start of 2008 came in his hometown against the Cardinals. Scherzer allowed four runs - two earned - over five innings in a 4-2 loss on Sept. 24, 2008.
La Russa loaded his lineup with left-handed hitters in that game, even benching Pujols and Ryan Ludwick. There is no indication if he will do the same Tuesday.