Cardinals’ Carpenter silences Nationals


By HOWARD FENDRICH

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Set aside the high-pressure task of postseason pitching that Chris Carpenter routinely masters for the St. Louis Cardinals and think about this:

Even the take-it-for-granted act of breathing feels odd on occasion now that he’s missing a rib and two neck muscles.

Taking the mound for only the fourth time in 2012 after complicated surgery to cure numbness on his right side, the 37-year-old Carpenter spoiled the return of postseason baseball to Washington by throwing scoreless ball into the sixth inning, and the defending champion Cardinals beat the Nationals 8-0 Wednesday to take a 2-1 lead in their NL division series.

“To go from not being able to compete, and not only compete but help your team, to be able to be in this situation,” Carpenter said, “it’s pretty cool.”

Rookie Pete Kozma delivered a three-run homer, and a trio of relievers finished the shutout for the Cardinals, who can end the best-of-five series in today’s Game 4 at Washington. Kyle Lohse will start for St. Louis. Ross Detwiler pitches for Washington, which is sticking to its long-stated plan of keeping Stephen Strasburg on the sideline the rest of the way.

“We’re not out of this, by a long shot,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. “Shoot, I’ve had my back to worse walls than this.”

With the exception of Ian Desmond — 3 for 4 on Wednesday, 7 for 12 in the series — the Nationals’ hitters are struggling mightily. They’ve scored a total of seven runs in the playoffs and went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position and left 11 men on base in Game 3.

Rookie phenom Bryce Harper’s woes, in particular, stand out: He went 0 for 5, dropping to 1 for 15. He went to the plate with an ash bat and no gloves in the first inning, tried wearing anti-glare tinted contact lenses on a sun-splashed afternoon — nothing helped.

“Nothing I can do,” the 19-year-old Harper said. “I just missed a couple.”

All in all, quite a damper on the day for a Nationals Park-record 45,017 red-wearing, towel-twirling fans witnessing the first major league postseason game in the nation’s capital in 79 years. They didn’t have much to enjoy, in part because of the problems created by Nationals starter Edwin Jackson, who was on the Cardinals’ championship team a year ago.

“I didn’t feel like I was out of rhythm. I didn’t feel like I couldn’t throw strikes. I just missed across the plate with a couple of balls and it cost me,” Jackson said.

He gave up four consecutive hits in the second, the biggest being Kozma’s first-pitch homer into the first row in left off a 94 mph fastball to make it 4-0. Kozma took over as the Cardinals’ everyday shortstop in September, replacing injured All-Star Rafael Furcal, and only had 72 at-bats during the regular season.

But he’s only the latest in a series of “Who’s that?” stars of this postseason.

With the Capitol Dome rising beyond left field, the crowd was ready to root, root, root for the home team, breaking into chants of “Let’s go, Nats!” after player introductions and again after a four-jet flyover. And, boy, did they boo — when Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay was announced as the game’s first batter, when first-base umpire Jim Joyce missed a call, when catcher Yadier Molina trotted to chat with Carpenter, even when Carpenter paused between pitches to tie his red-and-gray right shoe.

“Carp’s been a dominant pitcher his whole career. Big-game pitcher. He showed up,” Washington’s Jayson Werth said. “He pitched well today. We had him in some spots. We had him on the ropes a couple of times. We were just one bloop away from a totally different ballgame.”

The Cardinals won 10 fewer games than the majors-best Nationals this season and finished second in the NL Central, nine games behind Cincinnati, sneaking into the postseason as the league’s second wild-card under this year’s new format. But the Cardinals become a different bunch in the high-pressure playoffs — no matter that slugger Albert Pujols and manager Tony La Russa are no longer around.

Carpenter still is, even though even he didn’t expect to be pitching this year when he encountered problems during spring training and needed what Cardinals manager Mike Matheny termed a “radical” operation in July to correct a nerve problem.

“Everyone had written him off, kind of,” Jay said. “It could have been a season-ending injury, where he could have just gone home and said, ‘See you later.’”

The top rib on Carpenter’s right side was removed, along with muscles that were constricting blood flow up there. After Wednesday’s game, he squeezed his big right hand with his left, explaining, “Basically, my nerves were getting squished down by all the scar tissue and all the muscles and everything. There wasn’t enough space.”

Still adjusting to the way breathing feels different, he returned Sept. 21, going 0-2 in three starts totaling 17 innings, so it wasn’t clear how he’d fare Wednesday.

Yeah, right.

Carpenter allowed seven hits and walked two across his 5 2-3 innings to improve to 10-2 over his career in the postseason. That includes a 4-0 mark while helping another group of wild-card Cardinals take the title in the 2011 World Series, when he won Game 7 against Texas.

The 10 victories tie Carpenter for seventh-most, behind Andy Pettitte’s record 19.

“If the baseball world doesn’t know what an amazing competitor he is by now, they haven’t been paying any attention,” Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday said.

Carpenter collected a pair of hits, including a double off the wall in the fifth that was about a foot or two away from being a homer. When he reached second base, he raised his right fist.

Earlier, Carpenter stepped to the plate for his first at-bat and chatted with umpire Joe West.

“I say hello to him. And he said hello back, and he talked about what a beautiful day it was to play a baseball game. And I was like, ‘You ain’t kidding,’” Carpenter recounted. “Beautiful weather. The crowd is going crazy. … There’s no question you take time to reflect on that.”

Series glance

St. Louis 2, Washington 1

Sunday, Oct. 7: Washington 3, St. Louis 2

Monday, Oct. 8: St. Louis 12, Washington 4

Wednesday: St. Louis 8, Washington 0

Today: St. Louis (Lohse 16-3) at Washington (Detwiler 10-8), 10:07 a.m. (TBS)

Friday: St. Louis at Washington, 2:37 p.m. (TBS), if necessary

Cardinals 8, Nationals 0

St. Louis AB R H BI BB SO Avg.

Jay cf 4 2 2 0 0 0 .333

Beltran rf 4 1 2 0 1 0 .417

Holliday lf 5 1 3 2 0 0 .250

1-S.Robinson pr-lf 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000

Craig 1b 3 0 1 1 2 2 .333

Y.Molina c 3 1 0 1 1 0 .200

Freese 3b 5 1 2 0 0 2 .417

J.Kelly p 0 0 0 0 0 0 —-

Descalso 2b 4 1 1 1 0 2 .300

Kozma ss 5 1 1 3 0 2 .200

C.Carpenter p 3 0 2 0 0 1 .667

Rosenthal p 0 0 0 0 0 0 —-

c-Schumaker ph 1 0 0 0 0 0 .000

Salas p 0 0 0 0 0 0 —-

M.Carpenter 3b 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000

Totals 37 8 14 8 4 9

Washington AB R H BI BB SO Avg.

Werth rf 3 0 1 0 2 0 .250

Harper cf 5 0 0 0 0 0 .067

Zimmerman 3b 4 0 2 0 0 1 .385

LaRoche 1b 3 0 0 0 1 0 .091

Morse lf 4 0 0 0 0 1 .250

Desmond ss 4 0 3 0 0 0 .583

Espinosa 2b 3 0 0 0 0 2 .111

K.Suzuki c 4 0 0 0 0 1 .091

E.Jackson p 1 0 0 0 0 0 .000

a-Bernadina ph 1 0 0 0 0 0 .000

Stammen p 0 0 0 0 0 0 —-

b-Lombardozzi ph 1 0 1 0 0 0 .500

C.Garcia p 0 0 0 0 0 0 —-

Mattheus p 0 0 0 0 0 0 —-

Storen p 0 0 0 0 0 0 —-

d-Tracy ph 1 0 0 0 0 0 .000

Totals 34 0 7 0 3 5

St. Louis 130 001 120—8 14 1

Washington 000 000 000—0 7 0

a-flied out for E.Jackson in the 5th. b-singled for Stammen in the 6th. c-grounded out for Rosenthal in the 8th. d-grounded out for Storen in the 9th.

1-ran for Holliday in the 8th.

E—Freese (1). LOB—St. Louis 9, Washington 11. 2B—Beltran (1), Craig (2), Freese 2 (3), C.Carpenter (1), Desmond (1). HR—Kozma (1), off E.Jackson. RBIs—Holliday 2 (2), Craig (2), Y.Molina (1), Descalso (3), Kozma 3 (3). S—Jay, Espinosa. SF—Descalso.

Runners left in scoring position—St. Louis 6 (Y.Molina 2, Craig, C.Carpenter, Descalso 2); Washington 6 (Morse 3, E.Jackson, K.Suzuki, Werth). RISP—St. Louis 3 for 12; Washington 0 for 8.

Runners moved up—Holliday. GIDP—Jay, Y.Molina.

DP—Washington 2 (LaRoche, Desmond, LaRoche), (Desmond, Espinosa, LaRoche).

St. Louis IP H R ER BB SO NP ERA

C.Carpenter W, 1-0 5 2-3 7 0 0 2 2 106 0.00

Rosenthal 1 1-3 0 0 0 0 1 21 0.00

Salas 1 0 0 0 0 1 15 0.00

J.Kelly 1 0 0 0 1 1 18 0.00

Washington IP H R ER BB SO NP ERA

E.Jackson L, 0-1 5 8 4 4 1 4 68 7.20

Stammen 1 1 1 1 0 2 20 11.57

C.Garcia 1 2 1 1 2 2 30 3.38

Mattheus 1 3 2 2 1 0 28 6.00

Storen 1 0 0 0 0 1 11 0.00

Inherited runners-scored—Rosenthal 2-0. IBB—off C.Garcia (Craig). HBP—by Stammen (Y.Molina).

Umpires—Home, Joe West; First, Jim Joyce; Second, Alfonso Marquez; Third, Ed Hickox; Right, Marvin Hudson; Left, Paul Emmel.

T—3:32. A—45,017 (41,487).

How they scored

Cardinals first. Jay grounded out, shortstop Desmond to first baseman LaRoche. Beltran popped out to second baseman Espinosa. Holliday singled to left. Craig doubled to left, Holliday scored. Y.Molina grounded out, shortstop Desmond to first baseman LaRoche.

1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 1 left on. Cardinals 1, Nationals 0.

Cardinals second. Freese doubled to left. Descalso singled to left, Freese to third. Kozma homered to left on a 0-0 count, Freese scored, Descalso scored. C.Carpenter singled to right. Jay hit into a double play, first baseman LaRoche to shortstop Desmond to first baseman LaRoche, C.Carpenter out. Beltran grounded out, second baseman Espinosa to first baseman LaRoche.

3 runs, 4 hits, 0 errors, 0 left on. Cardinals 4, Nationals 0.

Cardinals sixth. Stammen pitching. Y.Molina was hit by a pitch. Freese doubled to right, Y.Molina to third. Descalso hit a sacrifice fly to right fielder Werth, Y.Molina scored, Freese to third. Kozma struck out. C.Carpenter struck out.

1 run, 1 hit, 0 errors, 1 left on. Cardinals 5, Nationals 0.

Cardinals seventh. C.Garcia pitching. Jay singled to right. Beltran singled to right, Jay to second. Holliday grounded out, third baseman Zimmerman to first baseman LaRoche, Jay to third, Beltran to second. Craig was intentionally walked. Y.Molina walked on a full count, Jay scored, Beltran to third, Craig to second. Freese struck out. Descalso struck out.

1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 3 left on. Cardinals 6, Nationals 0.

Cardinals eighth. Mattheus pitching. Kozma flied out to right fielder Werth. Schumaker pinch-hitting for Rosenthal. Schumaker grounded out to first baseman LaRoche. Jay singled to center. Beltran doubled to right, Jay to third. Holliday singled to left, Jay scored, Beltran scored. S.Robinson pinch-running for Holliday. Craig walked on a full count, S.Robinson to second. Y.Molina lined out to center fielder Harper.

2 runs, 3 hits, 0 errors, 2 left on. Cardinals 8, Nationals 0.

 

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