Carpenter takes the mound Thursday looking for his 17th victory as he and the Cardinals try to avoid a three-game sweep at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds.
La Russa credits Carpenter, who missed a month with a strained rib cage muscle, as a big factor in why the Cardinals (90-68) are returning to the playoffs.
“We missed the postseason two years and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Carp didn’t pitch for two years,” La Russa told the Cardinals’ official Web site. “He’s been a giant this year.”
With his team having lost three in a row since clinching the NL Central title over the weekend, La Russa will turn to Carpenter, who hasn’t received a decisions in the last two games despite pitching well in both outings. After pitching eight scoreless innings in a St. Louis win over Chicago on Sept. 19, he gave up one run in seven innings against Colorado on Friday. The Rockies went on to win 2-1.
Despite the loss, Carpenter lowered his ERA for a second consecutive game.
The right-hander has had better luck pitching against the Reds (76-82) this season, winning all three starts while giving up four runs and striking out 18 in 23 innings.
Carpenter will try to help St. Louis avoid being swept in a three-game series by Cincinnati for the first time since Sept. 11-13, 2007.
The Cardinals fell to 7-8 this season against the Reds with a 6-1 loss Wednesday. St. Louis, which has lost five of six, has scored 13 runs over that stretch and managed only five hits Wednesday after a 7-2 loss Tuesday.
“The score is what it is and that’s all I’m going to say about it,” La Russa said. “I take a positive in that they scored six runs early and didn’t score any more after that. We got just one run. Obviously, there is more that our offense should produce.”
John Smoltz(notes) struggled Wednesday, allowing six runs and walking five in four innings. He gave up a grand slam to Laynce Nix(notes) in the third after allowing two runs in the second, including one on a bases-loaded walk.
The streaking Reds have won eight of nine and 13 of 17. They’ve scored 69 runs in the last nine games and their starters are 8-1 with a 2.56 ERA during that span. Bronson Arroyo(notes) lasted 8 1-3 innings Wednesday, giving up one run while striking out six for his 15th win.
The right-hander, who has won two of his last three decisions, is 2-7 with a 5.17 ERA in 13 starts and two relief appearances against the Cardinals.