Carpenter (3-0, 0.62 ERA) was limited to five games over the last two seasons due to a pair of elbow surgeries and a shoulder injury. That came after he helped the Cardinals (30-23) to the 2006 World Series title and winning the 2005 NL Cy Young Award.
The right-hander started this season in strong fashion, allowing one run and one hit in seven innings of a 2-1 win over Pittsburgh on April 9. However, his next outing was cut short after three innings of a loss at Arizona due to a rib muscle injury that sidelined him until May 20.
Since returning, Carpenter has been outstanding, going 2-0 in three starts with a 0.95 ERA while striking out 19 in 19 innings.
The two-time All-Star was impressive again Saturday, yielding two runs and six hits in six innings of a 6-2 win at San Francisco. Carpenter has had to be that good since the Cardinals have given him only nine runs of support in his five starts.
“When you have a guy like Carp going out there every fifth start, always giving us a chance to win, our job is to score runs for him,” Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols(notes) said. “When we’re driving the ball, we can score runs from every part of the lineup.”
Carpenter is making his first start against the Reds (28-24) since throwing a four-hit shutout in 2006. Overall, he’s 2-2 with a 1.96 ERA in five home meetings versus the Reds and 3-3 with a 2.47 ERA in nine lifetime starts.
He’ll try to continue that success after St. Louis fell 9-3 on Wednesday for its third defeat in four games.
Laynce Nix(notes) was key for Cincinnati on Wednesday, matching his career high by hitting two homers while driving in four runs. The left fielder is 5 for 10 with seven RBIs during this series after going 4 for 26 (.154) with one RBI in his previous 10 games.
Nix has a .287 average with six homers and 17 RBIs after hitting .209 with seven homers and 42 RBIs in 102 games with Texas and Milwaukee the past three years due to injuries and ineffectiveness.
The Reds will turn to Aaron Harang(notes) (5-5, 4.19), who is looking to rebound from his worst performance of the season. The right-hander was tagged for eight runs and 12 hits, including three homers, in 4 1-3 innings of a 9-5 loss at Milwaukee on Saturday.
“I couldn’t locate anything (Saturday), plain and simple,” said Harang, who had won his previous two starts. “You can’t live with just throwing the fastball. When you have nothing else to throw off of it, it’s going to be a long night.”
Harang has struggled in his last three starts on the road, going 0-2 with a 7.64 ERA despite fanning 20 in 17 2-3 innings. He’s also dropped his last two starts at St. Louis, giving up nine runs and 16 hits in 11 innings.
Harang, though, beat the Cardinals at home May 9, allowing three runs and seven hits in seven innings of an 8-3 victory.
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