Play Fantasy The Most Award Winning Fantasy game with real time scoring, top expert analysis, custom settings, and more. Play Now
 
Tag:Chris Carpenter
Posted on: December 22, 2011 9:21 pm
 

Pujols gone, but Cards can win with Beltran

File this under the Life Goes On Dept.:

The St. Louis Cardinals lost three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols ... and still may enter 2012 as NL Central favorites.

Yes, you read that right.

That's what two years and $26 million -- oh, and a full no-trade clause -- to free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran does for the Redbirds. No guarantees of course, because his knees have more mileage on them than Don Rickles. But if Beltran, at 34, can produce as he did as an All-Star last summer, look out.

Defending division champion Milwaukee is on the brink of losing Prince Fielder, and the Brewers could be without NL MVP Ryan Braun for the first third of 2012 if his suspension for a testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug is upheld. The Reds are coming off of a highly disappointing season and have young starters surrounded by lots of questions (Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Travis Wood, Mike Leake). The Cubs have miles to go. The Pirates fell off in the second half last season. Houston? Please.

In St. Louis, this isn't about the Beltran of 2006, when he played in 140 games and blasted 41 homers and collected 116 RBIs. That Beltran but a memory -- just as is the image of him standing there frozen at home plate, gawking at Adam Wainwright's knee-bending, Game 7 curve for strike three that sent the Cardinals, and not Beltran's Mets, to the World Series.

No, this is about how today's Beltran fits in with, yep, Wainwright and the rest of the post-Pujols Cardinals.

Wainwright should be sufficiently recovered from Tommy John ligament transfer surgery to start the season in the rotation. Add him to Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Kyle Lohse and that's a winning rotation. Always, you start with pitching.

Beltran alone would not solve St. Louis' issues, pre- or post-Pujols. But with Matt Holliday (left field) and Lance Berkman (first base) in place, and with promising outfielders Jon Jay (center field) and Allen Craig (right field), now you've got something. Beltran fits well into that rotation. Veteran Rafael Furcal back at shortstop, World Series hero David Freese at third base ... mm-hmmm, the Cardinals will miss Pujols, but they're still versatile and potent.

With all that, first-year manager Mike Matheny shouldn't need to ride Beltran into the ground. But with Craig probably set to open the season on the disabled list following November knee surgery, Beltran can plug into right field early, stabilize the outfield and add depth and power to the lineup.

When Craig returns, Matheny surely will have no problem finding enough at-bats for Beltran in center and right field.

If he's got his legs under him, his bat is still there: His .525 slugging percentage in 2011 for the Mets and Giants ranked eighth among NL outfielders. Overall, he batted .300 with 22 homers and 84 RBI in 142 games.

You can argue that St. Louis overpaid for a guy who turns 35 in late April. But Colorado gave Michael Cuddyer $31.5 million over three years. It's a lot of money, but it's also a short-term commitment for St. Louis.

In that short-term, especially when measured against the rest of the NL Central right now, it looks like smart money. Yes, Pujols is gone. But that doesn't necessarily mean turn out the lights in St. Louis.
Posted on: October 29, 2011 3:38 am
 

Carpenter, St. Louis: True love

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."

Posted on: October 28, 2011 11:22 pm
 

Cardiac Cardinals win 11th World Series title

ST. LOUIS -- Forget "Go crazy, folks." This year, this autumn, this team, boil legendary broadcaster Jack Buck's famous phrase down even more than that. Strip it down to its base. To the one word.

Crazy.

The St. Louis Cardinals are World Series champions in a season in which things looked so bleak, they didn't even send advance men out to scout potential playoff opponents.

Champions in a season in which they were 10 1/2 games out of a playoff slot on Aug. 25.

Champions after general manager John Mozeliak and manager Tony La Russa in late August all but apologized to the Knights of the Cauliflower Ear -- a local civic club that meets to promote area sports -- for a lousy season.

Champions after whipping the Rangers 6-2 an anticlimactic Game 7 following a sensational Game 6 to win the 11th World Series title in franchise history, but please don't tell anyone around here about anticlimactic.

Kids, all that stuff your parents tell you about hard work and never giving up. ...

All true.

Ask Chris Carpenter, who was sensational in the first World Series Game 7 since 2002, working on short rest and extra guts.

Ask Albert Pujols, he of the record 14 total bases in Game 3, and David Freese, who delivered a two-run triple and game-winning homer in Game 6 that will be discussed for generations around here.

Ask Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday and a bullpen that provided the blood and guts that powered the Cardinals through one must-win situation after another during the month of September.

On a chilly Friday evening that pulled the curtain on a sensational final month to close the 2011 season, Carpenter held the Rangers to two runs and six hits over six innings.

It was only the second time in his career that he worked on short rest. The first? Game 2 of the Division Series in Philadelphia, when Carpenter was knocked around for five hits and four runs over just three innings.

La Russa said before Game 7 that he thought Carpenter learned something from his one other short rest outing. He wouldn't say what it was, but it was clear Carpenter did. Just one more example of the trust La Russa places in his elite players, and they in him.

That, along with the talent, has been an essential ingredient in the Cardinals' three World Series appearances since 2004, and two titles.

Posted on: October 25, 2011 2:41 am
 

Beltre's proposal: Winning a World Series

ARLINGTON, Texas -- It's been called his wedding proposal swing. It's been called crazy, uncanny and several other things.

And Adrian Beltre broke it out again in clubbing a Chris Carpenter curveball over the left field wall in the sixth inning to erase a one-run Cardinals lead and help Texas pull within one win of clinching this World Series with a 4-2 Game 5 triumph Monday night.

In launching into the breaking pitch, Beltre got so low in his swing that his right knee was actually on the ground when he connected.

"I don't know, I can't explain it," Beltre said. "It's been a bad habit since the minor leagues."

That's many years worth of bad habits, being that Beltre is completing his 14th season in the majors with this World Series.

"I was trying to find a pitch up in the strike zone and put a good swing on it," Beltre said. "I know that Carpenter is not a guy who leaves a lot of things up. But he threw me a couple of breaking balls in the at-bat before that I was able to see, so when I saw him throw me another breaking ball. ..."

Ka-boom! Indeed, Beltre saw two curveballs in his fourth-inning at-bat, which resulted in a ground ball to third base. The curve on which he feasted in the sixth was a 75 m.p.h. breaking ball Carpenter left up.

And Beltre went down, to a knee.

"I don't know anyone else in the game who can do that," Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "We've seen highlight after highlight. I don't know where it came from.

"He doesn't practice it in the cage."

Posted on: October 20, 2011 2:26 am
 

Few curves, but Carpenter throws Rangers for loop

ST. LOUIS -- Chris Carpenter has had more memorable games. He's had more dominant games. He's surely had more enjoyable games.

But for 87 pitches over six innings in Game 1 of the World Series, Carpenter reached the bar he's set for pitching on guts and determination.

Given the degree of difficulty on this night, it surely was one of his most impressive outings for the Cardinals. And with a 3-2 Game 1 win over Texas, it surely will stand the test of time, too.

As if 49 degrees at game-time wasn't unpleasant enough, Carpenter admittedly received treatment on his elbow for swelling and discomfort following his NLCS Game 3 outing against Milwaukee. Both Carpenter and the Cardinals were adamant that he was fine, that he wouldn't have started otherwise.

But one clue as to the condition of his elbow is this: He threw only seven curveballs in 89 pitches, about 8 percent, according to the pitch-by-pitch feature on MLB.com's GameDay.

According to the web site FanGraphs.com, Carpenter threw his curveball 20.4 percent of the time in 2011.

What he did in Game 1 was feed the Rangers a steady diet of sinkers and cutters. And though he only got two 1-2-3 innings of the six he pitched -- the third and fourth -- he left after six with a 3-2 lead and the lethal Cardinals bullpen picked him up from there.

"When you throw Carp on the mound, you expect a quality start," Cardinals third baseman David Freese said in response to a question regarding Carpenter's elbow. "You expect him to be Chris Carpenter.

"I don't think he'd be out there if he couldn't do what he's been doing."

Because the Rangers and Cardinals have only played once in Interleague play, several years ago, very few of the Rangers have faced him. Michael Young, for example, had only six lifetime at-bats against the right-hander, and two hits.

Because of that, Young said he didn't notice Carpenter's curve count. But he did notice a few other things.

"He was keeping the ball down and getting strike one," Young said. "That was a big thing right there. A lot of balls down. He got ground balls. We did not have a lot of line drives, like we usually do."

"He was pitching, you know?" said Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, who went 1 for 3 with a walk after being moved up to sixth in the lineup following his six homers in the ALCS. "He makes pitches when he has to."

Carpenter was not asked about his elbow during his appearance in the post-game media interview room. Of the weather conditions, he said that the balls "were a little slick with the breeze and the lack of humidity. But besides that, it's the same. It's another game, and we've pitched in weather like this before. I grew up [in New Hampshire] pitching in weather like this, so it was no big deal."

The fact that he threw so few curveballs, hard to say definitively whether that is a big deal. But Carpenter did exactly what the Cardinals have come to expect and appreciate on the latest biggest night of their season.

Plus, what his pitching line does not show is his fabulous defensive play in the first inning, when he made a diving catch of an Albert Pujols toss while covering first base two batters into the game. Carpenter caught the toss and tagged first to get the speedy Elvis Andrus on a sensational, athletic play.

"Great performance," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "They're a great hitting team. If you don't make a lot of pitches, they're going to bang you around. ...

"The thing about Carp, he was exactly what we needed."
Posted on: October 19, 2011 5:40 pm
 

Cards, Rangers in final preparations for Game 1

ST. LOUIS -- The tarp is on the field. The place is on near-lockdown with First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden due tonight. The rain has been falling off and on all afternoon.

Though MLB officials are confident that the Cardinals and Rangers will play tonight (and on time), it is cold, wet and raw here -- which means Mother Nature may have a better chance of slowing down these two big-hitting lineups in Game 1 of the World Series than any starting pitcher.

The cold, wet conditions will not help Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter, who experienced some swelling in his right elbow following his Game 3 start against Milwaukee in the NLCS. (He says he's fine.)

The weather will not be comfortable for Rangers starter C.J. Wilson, who has experienced some severe swelling in his postseason numbers this autumn: He's 0-2 with an 8.04 ERA. (He says he's fine.)

But the conditions may be even worse for hitters, because the colder it gets, the less the baseball carries. And it is expected to dip into the upper 30s tonight.

The Rangers clubbed 13 homers, 20 doubles and scored 55 runs in their 10 post-season games so far, and they're hitting .276 with runners in scoring position. Josh Hamilton has hit safely in five consecutive postseason games, and he hopes to take that momentum into this World Series to erase the memories of last year against San Francisco: Hamilton was just 2 for 20 against the Giants and looked even worse than those numbers do.

The Cardinals, meantime, averaged 5.6 runs per game in the NLCS. They led the NL in runs scored this season, and their +70 run differential was third in the AL. Albert Pujols is coming off of a torrid NLCS, and Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday are doing a fine job of protecting him. Holliday, battling tendinitis in his right hand, says though it's about the same as it was in the NLCS, it's far better than it was against Philadelphia in the first round.

Both of these clubs are fairly experienced in October, the Rangers having gained theirs more recently. Michael Young talked extensively Tuesday about how this year should be better for Texas because the Rangers know what's ahead of them, know better what to expect out of the World Series. That no doubt goes for manager Ron Washington, too, who is has guided the Rangers to their second World Series in two years.

This is the sixth World Series for St. Louis manager Tony La Russa, and as the wind blew and the rain fell outside, he spoke of how he's changed from that first one with Oakland in 1988 until now.

"The first one, I wouldn't say I was clueless," La Russa said. "You have a little clue. But it was like in '83, the first time in the playoffs [managing the White Sox], you're just hoping you don't pass out during the game.

"That was painful in '88 because no doubt, Tommy [Lasorda, then the Dodgers' manager] did a much better job of getting his club ready for the World Series than I did for the A's."

All these years later, La Russa has become the master. And over in the Texas dugout, Washington has earned his stripes -- though he doesn't want to hear about "matching wits" with La Russa.

"I don't think I can ever live up to matching a wit with Tony La Russa, but what I will try to do is put my players in the right position," Washington said the other day. "And if my players perform, I don't have to worry about matching wits. They'll take care of things."

Rangers-Cardinals, we're just about there.

Well, as soon as they take the tarp off the field.
Posted on: October 16, 2011 11:51 pm
 

Cards World Series-bound after record run

MILWAUKEE -- If the St. Louis Cardinals' starters pitch this lousy in the World Series ... why, they just might stand a puncher's chance against the Texas Rangers.

Go figure. Tony La Russa burned through 28 pitching changes over six games, using 34 total pitchers ... and his was the team that won. St. Louis burned through the Brewers one more time, 12-6, to seize this NL Championship Series.

And this whole "Happy Flight" thing has gotten quite out of control as the Cardinals streaked to their 22nd win in their past 31 games: They've now won 17 consecutive games leading into a flight this season. And their post-Game 6 flight was the happiest of all: It took them home, and straight into the World Series.

Who would have figured this? The Cardinals were 10 1/2 games out of the wild-card slot in late August, and 8 1/2 out on Sept. 6. Then the Braves started losing, the Cardinals started winning and who knows when it will end?

Ace Chris Carpenter seemed gassed after his beautiful Game 5 classic over Roy Halladay in Philadelphia, but it didn't matter. Edwin Jackson? Lasted two innings in Game 6, but it didn't matter. Jaime Garcia? Kyle Lohse? Neither was sharp but ... you got it. Just didn't matter.

The Cardinals clearly were the better team, and right now it's looking like their TKO of the Phillies was no fluke. The Cardinals led the NL in on-base percentage this season for the first time since 2003, and they're only getting better.

And this was more than Albert Pujols, who flexed for five RBIs in Game 2. This was David Freese's coming out party. With Matt Holliday nursing a sore hand, Freese was unstoppable. In running his postseason hitting streak to nine games, he batted .459 (17 for 37) with five doubles, four homers and 14 RBI. In the six-game NLCS, Freese rolled out the barrel on the Brewers to the tune of a.545 (12 for 22) average with three homers and nine RBIs.

But despite all this, the real stars were those odd-named (Mark Rzepcynski), bespectacled and bearded (Jason Motte), Ryan Braun-killing (Octavio Dotel, who whiffed the Brewers outfielder again Sunday and now has struck him out in nine of 11 career at-bats) and old men (Arthur Rhodes) in the bullpen.

The six consecutive games in which a starting pitcher failed to work into the sixth inning is the longest such postseason streak in St. Louis history.

Normally, that's a recipe for disaster. But with La Russa mixing matchups more expertly than a master bartender mixes drinks, it suddenly wasn't. Time after time, La Russa was able to get Dotel to trump Braun, or the lefty Rzepcynski to face the left-handed Fielder.

Against a Texas lineup that is deeper than most in the National League, La Russa and the bullpen will have their work cut out for them. But if you're going to bet against this club after the month they've put together, well, that's on you.
Posted on: October 13, 2011 11:30 pm
 

Wolf huge as Brewers beat Cards, even NLCS

ST. LOUIS -- Numbers game? Here's one: Eight starting pitchers into this NL Championship Series, one finally produced a quality start. It came in Game 4 from the most unlikeliest of places: Soft-throwing veteran Randy Wolf.

And it could not have come at a more opportune time for manager Ron Roenicke's crew.

Brewers 4, Cardinals 2, and this series is dead even.

Which means one very important thing to both clubs:

Following Game 5 Friday night, this series is guaranteed to return to Milwaukee, where the Brewers practically have run the table this season.

That does not necessarily mean they'll do it again. But it does mean that if St. Louis has ideas of advancing to its first World Series since 2006, the Cardinals are going to need more out of their starting pitchers.

I know, that sounds like heresy when Tony La Russa has eight relievers on his playoff roster and, just a night before, folks couldn't heap enough praise on his hard-throwing pen. But asking them to be perfect every night is a tall order.

When Ryan Braun greeted reliever Mitchell Boggs with an RBI single in the fifth inning to snap a 2-2 tie and lift the Brewers into a lead they would not relinquish, you bet it was attention-grabbing: To that point, Cardinals relievers had retired 18 consecutive Brewers batters over the past two games.

But they've been pitching a lot of innings in a series marked by (marred by?) the brevity of innings from starters. Only Milwaukee's Zack Greinke and Wolf have lasted six or more innings. And only Wolf has surrendered three or fewer runs while doing so.

You would have predicted Chris Carpenter? Or Yovani Gallardo?

Wolf, tossing a riveting array of pitches from a slow curve (67, 68 mph) to a pedestrian fastball (90), kept St. Louis off-balance all evening. He left having allowed just two runs and six hits in seven innings. He whiffed six and walked just one.

Not that the Brewers were desperate for a performance like that after Gallardo's Game 3 clunker, but Bernie Brewer was seen pulling his winter sweaters out of storage up in Miller Park after that.

Now, it's a whole new series.

First team to get some decent starting pitching wins.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com