The former NL Cy Young winner whose career has been derailed by elbow and shoulder injuries looks to continue his dominant return Saturday night when the St. Louis Cardinals play the middle game of a three-games series against the San Francisco Giants.
Carpenter (2-0, 0.00 ERA) won a Cy Young Award in 2005 and won 15 games in 2006, but made just four starts and one relief appearance over the next two seasons for the Cardinals (28-20) because of injuries. The right-hander’s extensive history of arm trouble came up again in the offseason, when he had surgery to transpose a nerve on his pitching elbow.
Carpenter started the year in St. Louis’ rotation and didn’t allow an earned run in his first two starts, but he strained a left ribcage muscle against Arizona on April 14 and spent the next five weeks on the disabled list.
The two-time All-Star has picked up right where he left off since coming off the DL.
In 23 innings over four starts, Carpenter has given up one unearned run. He’s limiting opponents to a .127 batting average and has 23 strikeouts to four walks.
On Monday at Milwaukee, Carpenter retired the first 18 batters and ended up allowing two hits with 10 strikeouts and no walks in eight innings of a 1-0, 10-inning loss. He became the third pitcher since 1954 not to allow an earned run in his first four starts of a season, joining Fernando Valenzuela in 1985 and Zack Greinke(notes) this year.
“You just can’t do what he’s doing, to be this sharp, but he’s doing it,” St. Louis manager Tony La Russa told the team’s official Web site.
Carpenter hasn’t faced the Giants since Sept. 16, 2006, when he allowed one run and struck out nine in seven innings of a 6-1 victory. The 12-year veteran is 2-0 with a 3.03 ERA in four career starts versus San Francisco.
The Giants (24-23) defeated the Cardinals 4-2 in Friday’s series opener to win their fourth in a row after losing nine of 11.
“I didn’t realize he was playing first until we took the field,” said second baseman Emmanuel Burriss(notes), who also drove in a run. “He doesn’t play for a few days and he comes in and gets a couple of knocks. We didn’t expect anything less.”
Reigning NL MVP Albert Pujols(notes), in the midst of a power slump with one homer and six RBIs in his last 15 games, is 4 for 7 with a homer and a double lifetime against Barry Zito(notes) (1-5, 4.02), who starts Saturday looking to bounce back from a disappointing outing.
After throwing his first complete game since 2003 in a 2-1 loss to San Diego on May 19, Zito allowed five runs, five hits and a season-high five walks in 6 1-3 innings of Sunday’s 5-4 loss to Seattle.
The 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner has pitched much better than his record indicates but has a major league-worst 2.09 run support average. The left-hander has a 2.36 ERA in four starts at AT&T Park but has yet to win there, as he’s been backed by three total runs of support in those outings.
Zito is 0-2 in three games versus the Cardinals and in his most recent start against them, he gave up four runs - one earned - and seven hits in six innings of an 8-2 loss April 11, 2008.