ST. LOUIS -- The cute little girl leaned into the microphone and spoke.
"I love my dad," Ava Carpenter, 6, said.
Not long after, her pop, the Cardinals ace who earned the win in Game 7 of the 2011 World Series, chuckled.
"Yeah, but she's got a crush on David Freese," Chris Carpenter said.
On a noisy Friday night in St. Louis after the Cardinals won their 11th World Series title in franchise history, who didn't? Freese, the Series MVP who batted .348 with a homer and seven RBI, emerged into an overnight sensation.
But crushes come and go.
Everyone knows true love lasts forever.
While Freese is on the launching pad toward potential great things ahead, Ava Carpenter's dad already is there. The Cardinals now have played in three World Series during his time here, winning two. He's so thrilled to be here, he signed an extension in mid-September that will keep him in the St. Louis rotation through 2013.
And to that, add this: Carpenter is the first pitcher ever to win two elimination games in one postseason, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Before winning Game 7 of the World Series on Friday, he beat Philadelphia's Roy Halladay 1-0 in Game 5 of the Division Series.
Carpenter says these Cardinals are the best group of guys with whom he's ever played. And Friday, he gave them something to remember him by.
Working on three days' rest for only the second time in his career, Carpenter immediately spotted the Rangers two runs in the first inning when Josh Hamilton and Michael Young boomed back-to-back doubles.
But after that ... he threw five shutout innings during which he surrendered only two hits against a potent Texas lineup.
Carpenter said he felt "pretty good" in the first inning. He liked the pitch to Hamilton that turned into a double, but he left a pitch up to Young that became the inning's other double.
"Coming back out for the second, I didn't know how long they were going to let me go," Carpenter said. "So I was just trying to do everything I can to get one out at a time. If it was for two innings, one inning, three innings, four innings ... I had no idea. And nobody said anything to me about it.
"So I just continued to go out and try to make pitches, and as the game went on, I felt stronger. My stuff got better, my command got better and I was able to make some really good pitches when I had to."
Turned out, it was more than enough.
And after the debacle of Game 2 in Philadelphia during the Division Series when he allowed four runs and five hits in three innings while starting on short rest for the first time in his career, there probably won't be many more skeptics if and when he is asked to do it again.
"These guys, again, never gave up," Carpenter said, raving about his teammates, and who else does he think takes the lead in that department?
"This team is unbelievable," Carpenter said. "Most amazing team I've ever been a part of."