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sábado, 8 de outubro de 2011

Carpenter ensures Cards' season continues

Chris Carpenter was given a second chance to help extend the Cards' season and he took full advantage with a complete-game shutout of the Philadelphia Phillies. (Howard Smith/US Presswire)

October 8, 2011
PHILADELPHIA – Given a second chance, Chris Carpenter made sure the St. Louis Cardinals magical run would continue for at least a few more games.

Carpenter rebounded from a poor Game 2 start and outdueled friend and former teammate Roy Halladay, throwing a three-hit shutout to lead the Cardinals to a 1-0 win in the deciding Game 5 of the National League Division Series at Citizen's Bank Park.

"I think he'll remember this game forever," said manager Tony La Russa.

Left for dead in late August, the Cardinals made up a 10 ½ game deficit on the Atlanta Braves and won the Wild Card on the final day of the regular season.  Riding their momentum wave as far as it will take them, the Cardinals provided a stunning early exit for the team with baseball's best record.

The Cardinals won Game 4 at Busch Stadium to even the series, setting up the dream matchup between Carpenter and Halladay that everyone had hoped for. And boy, did it live up to the hype.

Just the third matchup of former Cy Young Award winners in a decisive game in postseason history, the Cardinals took a 1-0 lead just two batters into the game. A Rafael Furcal leadoff triple and a Skip Schumaker double to conclude a 10-pitch at-bat gave the Cardinals the early run they were looking for.

The one run was all Carpenter needed.

Providing a vintage outing that may go down as one of the best outings of his career, the right-hander allowed a double to Shane Victorino in the second, a single to Victorino in the fourth and a single to Chase Utley in the sixth. That was it.

"It's the best because it helped us clinch the series," said first baseman Albert Pujols. "He is just huge when it comes to a big time game. He has a Cy Young Award for a reason. He's been an ace for this ballclub for a reason over the last eight years. He came through once again for us."

Nervous fans watching back on television in St. Louis weren't helped by a couple of deep fly balls and close plays that could have swung the game in Philadelphia's favor.

With two on and two outs in the fourth, Raul Ibanez launched a deep drive to right that fell into Lance Berkman's glove just in front of the wall.

The Phillies then appeared to be in business following a one-out single from Utley in the sixth but Yadier Molina gunned him down trying to steal second to end the threat.

Ryan Howard flew out to right on a 3-0 pitch to start the seventh and Rafael Furcal turned in the defensive gem of the series with a diving stop up the middle to rob Carlos Ruiz of a hit in the eighth.

Utley led off the ninth with a deep drive to center that looked like it might tie the game, but Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay tracked the ball down just in front of the wall.

But when Ryan Howard's weak ground ball to second was fielded by Nick Punto and thrown softly into Pujols' glove at first, Carpenter's masterpiece was complete. So was the improbable upset of baseball's best team as the Cardinals earned a trip to Milwaukee for the  National League Championship Series.

"It was an unbelievable night," Carpenter said. "You have to look at all kinds of things. Roy Halladay is probably at this time the best pitcher in the game and we come out and were able to jump on him early and get a quick run, which was huge.

"I went out and was able to do the things that I wasn't able to do in Game 2, and that was get ahead in the count, control the strike zone with my fastball, and use my breaking ball when I needed to. You look at the whole game and everything that went on in that game, and it was just a tremendous job by our ballclub."

Carpenter needed 110 pitches to finish off his first career playoff shutout. The right-hander improved to 6-2 in the postseason, handing the Phillies just their seventh postseason shutout in club history.

Halladay wasn't shabby either, allowing just six hits and one run in eight innings. The Phillies ace threw 126 tough pitches, getting out of a bases loaded jam in the eighth unscathed to keep the deficit at just one.
But the Cardinals weren't losing on this night. Carpenter wasn't about to let them.

Thanks to another memorable performance from their right-hander, the Cardinals' unlikely postseason run will continue for at least another week. After clinching a playoff spot on the final day of the season, the Cardinals are now one of the final four teams still left.

"Unbelievable," third baseman David Freese said. "Can you believe it?"

Those that weren't believers of the St. Louis Cardinals earlier this month may be starting to come around.


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