by Michael Scully
Last week, we detailed Chris Carpenter’s return to the majors only three months after having his rib removed. We predicted a line of: 5IP 1ER 5H 1BB 4K. What he pitched was an eerily close 5IP 2ER 5H 1BB 2K performance. He was limited to 77 pitches to insure he doesn’t reinjure himself after working hard to come back to the team this season for the playoffs.
Tonight, Carpenter gets the nod again looking to regain his form from last year and be ready for the playoffs. The last time he pitched against the Astros was game 162 last year, where he delivered a dominating two hit shutout performance while striking out eleven. We don’t expect him to do this again as he should be limited to around 85-90 pitches, and it appears as if he hasn’t gotten full command of his sinker yet. Regardless expect a line of 5 2/3 IP 4H 1ER 1BB 3K against the helpless Astros.
What does Carpenter’s return mean for the Cardinals playoff run? Last September Carpenter put the Cardinals on his back, and they rallied to catch the Braves from 8.5 games back, but we all remember that. Against the Phillies, Carpenter started game two on three days’ rest (just after the shutout we mentioned.) He did this knowing that despite the possibility of pitching a bad game, it would put him in line for game five if the Cardinals needed.
And they did, before the game fellow blogger Alex Borselli asked me who I thought was the best pitcher in baseball. I asked back for one game or over the season. He said one game. Then, I asked him, is this a deciding game I have to win? He said yes, as both the Cardinals and Diamondbacks were looking at game fives. I said, for one game I’d choose Roy Halladay, but if everything’s on the line, Chris Carpenter won’t fail. Ironically, Carpenter faced Halladay and out-dueled him wining on a three hit shutout.
Aside from his three inning outing, Carpenters playoff stats were 4-0 33 IP 9ER 26H 8BB 19K for a 2.45 ERA. Game one of the World Series was the only game that October that Carpenter started on more than four days’ rest. The Cardinals probably won’t rely on Carpenter so much this time around for the playoffs, but his gritty attitude will definitely permeate threw the club and possibly spark a deep playoff run.
His next start will be on October 1st or 2nd depending on how the Cardinals set their rotation for the playoffs. If he starts on the 1st, it’s not unimaginable that he will talk his way into starting the play-in game, and with the Cardinals staff finally healthy could an unlikely use of all Carpenter and Lynn push the Cardinals into the NLDS? This would slate Garcia at home, and allowing Lohse and Wainwright to pitch in the first three games with Carpenter ready, if needed, for game four. Should the Cardinals manage to do this, we may be looking at 12in’12 slogans.