Carpenter takes the mound Saturday against the Chicago Cubs as the Cardinals look to move closer to clinching the NL Central title.
St. Louis (86-62) came into this weekend having dropped five of six, but facing the division rival Cubs appeared to be what Matt Holliday(notes) and the Cardinals needed to snap out of the slump. Holliday, who entered in a 6 for 26 slide, homered off Aaron Heilman(notes) to lead off the ninth, giving St. Louis a 3-2 victory Friday.
The Cardinals, who have scored six runs in the last three games, managed just six hits in the win, but improved to 9-5 against the second-place Cubs (75-71) and clinched the season series for the first time since 2004.
St. Louis insisted it wasn’t concerned about the recent slump, even though the club had dropped six of seven at home, scoring 14 runs in the six losses. The Cardinals’ magic number to clinch the division is six.
“At some point you figure we were going to lose a few,” Holliday said. “I can’t believe people expected us to win four out of five games the entire last two months.”
As St. Louis moves closer to eliminating the back-to-back division champs from the Central race, it will send Carpenter (16-4, 2.45 ERA) to the mound as he looks to bounce back after a difficult start.
Carpenter is second in the NL in wins behind teammate Adam Wainwright(notes) and trails only San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum(notes) in ERA. The Cy Young candidate had perhaps his worst outing of the season the last time out, losing for the first time since June 30.
Carpenter, who had won 11 consecutive decisions and compiled a 1.97 ERA in his previous 13 starts, gave up a season-high seven runs in six innings of a 9-2 loss to Atlanta on Sunday.
“I’m human also,” Carpenter told the Cardinals’ official Web site. “Things happen. I’m looking forward to getting back out there in five or six days for my next start. I’ll work hard and be ready to pitch.”
The right-hander is 9-3 with a 3.02 ERA against the Cubs, including 3-1 with a 1.69 ERA at home. He’s won both of his starts against Chicago this year, yielding three runs in 11 innings.
The Cubs dropped their third straight Friday after winning eight of nine. They had scored 61 runs in the previous 10 games, but were limited to four hits after Derrek Lee(notes) and Aramis Ramirez(notes) had run-scoring doubles in the first to give Chicago a 2-0 lead.
Ramirez is hitting .480 with eight RBIs in the last eight games.
A day after removing himself from the game against Milwaukee because of knee pain, Milton Bradley(notes) was not in the lineup Friday. Manager Lou Piniella said he could play Saturday. Bradley is hitting .211 against St. Louis, going 1 for 10 in four games at Busch Stadium.
The Cubs will hand the ball to Ryan Dempster(notes) (10-8 3.84), who has won his last two starts. He gave up four hits in eight innings of a 2-0 win over Milwaukee on Monday - his fourth win in five games.
The right-hander is 0-1 with a 4.26 ERA against the Cardinals this season, with the Cubs losing two of his three starts.