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Chris Carpenter was credited the win on Wednesday in Game 3 of the NLCS as his St. Louis Cardinals put away the Milwaukee Brewers, 4-3. But Carpenter was far from his usual self, lasting just the minimum -- five innings -- while allowing three runs on six hits while striking out two.
Thanks to a brilliant bullpen and a first-inning offensive outburst by the Cardinals, though, Carpenter recorded his seventh postseason win, tying Bob Gibson's franchise record. Following the game, the praise went straight to the St. Louis bullpen, which closed out the last four innings of the game without allowing a base-runner.
"You never know how it's going to work out," Carpenter said. "That's what's so fun about this game and that's what's so fun about pitching. Our guys did a fabulous job."
"We've won games in several ways," Cardinals outfielder Lance Berkman said. "Tonight's was the bullpen's night to shine."
Carpenter slogged through his five innings of work, but did just enough to keep the Cardinals alive and in front before turning it over to a bullpen that looked other-worldly on Wednesday night. And with those four perfect innings of relief, St. Louis took a 2-1 advantage in the NLCS, seizing control of the series, if only momentarily.
It took the St. Louis Cardinals one inning -- the first inning -- to put enough runs on the board to down the Milwaukee Brewers and take a 2-1 lead in the NLCS on Wednesday night. After Chris Carpenter made it out of the top of the first unscathed, Yovani Gallardo took the mound for the Brewers and stumbled right out of the gate, giving the Cardinals all the breathing room they needed to take Game 3 of the NLCS.
So what happened to the Brewers' ace in the first? Manager Ron Roenicke opined on the matter after the game. In response to a question about whether Gallardo was rattled, Roenicke had the following to say:
Yeah, I think he lost his command there, I don't know what the reason was. First batter he left the curveball up to Furcal to give up the base hit, and Jay's ball that fell in was a decent pitch fastball in. Pujols hit a great pitch: Nice curveball, down in the zone, and he drives it to left center. Then after that I thought Yo lost his command. Maybe it was because he was throwing some pretty good pitches and they were hitting them? I don't know. May have started to try to paint too much, but his command did get off there.
No matter the cause, something was off, and that something was all the Cardinals needed. Though Carpenter wasn't perfect -- the Cardinals' ace gave up three runs in five innings of work -- the St. Louis bullpen was. As Jeff Sullivan noted, the bullpen saw 12 batters, and sat all 12 down while clinging to a one-run lead.
The end result was a 4-3 win and 2-1 series advantage for the Cardinals. The Cards and Brewers get back at it in St. Louis again on Thursday in Game 4 of the NLCS.
The Cardinals put up a four-spot against Yovani Gallardo in the bottom of the first and then held on the rest of the way to take a 2-1 series lead over the Brewers.
Six weeks ago, who knew it would come to this?
Jason Motte saved nine games for the St. Louis Cardinals during the regular season, and the first of those didn't come until late August. Finally, though, Jason Motte seems to have gained Tony La Russa's trust. He pitched well as the Cardinals' closer in September, and in October he's been almost perfect.
Before Game 3 of the NLCS Tuesday night, he'd pitched in four postseason games and given up one hit, a measly single. Motte saved Game 2 of the Division Series by recording four outs, and it looks an awful lot like La Russa's going to ask for a repeat performance tonight.
Motte is one-fourth of the way there, after striking out Rickie Weeks to end the top of the eighth.
In the top of the ninth, he'll face the bottom of the Milwaukee lineup. So you gotta like his chances to preserve the Cardinals' one-run lead and give St. Louis a 2-1 edge in this series.
After 8½ innings, it's still Cardinals 4, Brewers 3.
In a close game, this probably isn't how you want your reliever to start an inning:
Pow! Right in the butt! Take that, Fat Elvis!
But Yadier Molina flew out to former MVP-vote-getter and current beast-among-men Mark Kotsay in right for the first out, and then David Freese grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning and preserve the manageable one-run deficit.
It's all about the bullpen match-ups from here on out, and you know how Tony La Russa hates that. As of this writing, the Brewers are just four outs away from falling in the game, after Marc Rczypzicscki struck out Prince Fielder in the eighth. And, say, is that another reliever coming in for La Russa? Hold on there, Tony! You'll go blind if you keep doing that!
A win would give the Cardinals a 2-1 series lead in the NLCS, which considering how they were 10 games back from a playoff berth just a few weeks ago, isn't a bad place to be.
Wednesday night's Game 3 of the NLCS featured Yovani Gallardo for the Brewers, and Chris Carpenter for the Cardinals. Or, to put it another way, Game 3 featured both the Brewers' and the Cardinals' staff aces. So one figures Ron Roenicke and Tony La Russa were expecting a little more than they got.
I say that because, with the score 4-3 St. Louis, both Carpenter and Gallardo were removed after five innings. Fernando Salas came out of the St. Louis bullpen to work the sixth, and he did a splendid job, working through the Brewers' 6-7-8 hitters on eight pitches.
Then LaTroy Hawkins came out of the Milwaukee bullpen, and he also turned in a scoreless inning, albeit a more stressful one. Hawkins surrendered a leadoff single to Allen Craig on his second pitch, and Craig advanced to second on a bunt. After Jon Jay flew out, Hawkins intentionally walked Albert Pujols to face Matt Holliday, and Hawkins got Holliday to swing through a fastball to end the threat.
So it's still 4-3 going to the seventh, and Lance Lynn is now in for the Cardinals.
Maybe it's too late for Chris Carpenter and Yovani Gallardo to settle down, given how poorly they pitched earlier. But what I can tell you is that, ever since Mark Kotsay - Mark Kotsay! - hit his solo home run in the top of the third, we haven't seen a runner cross the plate.
Carpenter got himself into a little hot water in the top of the fifth. So okay, yeah, no, he hasn't settled down. Forget that whole first idea. He walked Kotsay for the second time in the game, and then intentionally walked Prince Fielder with two out. That brought up Rickie Weeks with the tying run in scoring position, but Carpenter whiffed Weeks with a low-away slider. It was his 89th pitch of the game.
Off we went to the bottom of the fifth, where Gallardo didn't get himself into as bad a jam as his opponent. Gallardo got Lance Berkman to pop out on the first pitch, and then got Yadier Molina to foul out on the fourth pitch. David Freese followed with a single and is now 3-for-3 in the game, but he died on the basepaths after Nick Punto struck out looking.
89 pitches (48 strikes)
In the first inning, there were runs. In the second inning, there were runs. In the third inning, there was a run. But in the fourth inning? Nothing! For the first time tonight, nothing!
But I guess we left you after Mark Kotsay's home run in the top of the third. So we should talk about the bottom of the third. The bottom of the third was all right, I guess. David Freese hit a two-out double. It was his second double of the game. But Freese didn't score, because Nick Punto grounded out.
Now then, the fourth. For Chris Carpenter, the top of the fourth wasn't bad. Yuniesky Betancourt singled when Freese couldn't corral a hot-shot grounder at third, but that was all the Brewers would do, with Gallardo making the final out.
For Gallardo, the bottom of the fourth was a little scary. Carpenter led off and hit a rocket to short that Betancourt couldn't handle. Then Rafael Furcal showed bunt and walked on four pitches. Just like that, Gallardo found himself in another jam.
But he escaped this one. After Furcal's walk, Jon Jay swung at the first pitch and grounded into a double play, leaving a runner on third with two down. Gallardo and Ron Roenicke elected to intentionally walk Albert Pujols to put runners on the corners, and though Pujols advanced to second on a wild pitch, he died there - and Carpenter died on third - when Matt Holliday whiffed at a 2-2 high fastball.
So it's still 4-3 Cardinals as we go to the fifth. Gallardo's pitch count is up to 82, and he's thrown an incredible 42 balls, but he hasn't allowed a run since that nightmare first. And it's not like Carpenter has been extraordinary, himself.
I guess I had that coming.
I was critical of Ron Roenicke inserting Mark Kotsay in the starting lineup, and then I had a little fun at Kotsay's expense when he had an ugly first inning, which included a baserunning mistake and an issue in the field. The early indications were that playing Kotsay over Nyjer Morgan was a bad move on Roenicke's part.
Well, nuts to me! Because Mark Kotsay led off the top of the third inning with a home run.
Oh, but first: Yovani Gallardo threw a scoreless bottom of the second. It wasn't easy. He allowed a single to Albert Pujols, and he moved him to second on a wild pitch. But Gallardo got Matt Holliday to ground out to kill the modest threat.
Then the third. Then Kotsay. The first pitch Chris Carpenter threw Kotsay was a fastball more or less over the heart of the plate, and Kotsay pounded it out to right field on a line. That cut the Cardinals' lead to 4-3, and as Kotsay returned to the dugout, there was much laughter and mirth. Nyjer Morgan himself seemed to be having a ball.
That was all the damage the Brewers would do. Ryan Braun singled, but got erased on Prince Fielder's double play, and then Rickie Weeks grounded out. But now it's 4-3 St. Louis in the bottom of the third, and the Cardinals' quick start has been all but forgotten.
For Milwaukee, the first inning was something of a disaster. They threw away an opportunity at the plate, and then in the bottom half, they watched St. Louis go to town against staff ace Yovani Gallardo, scoring four runs before the third out. The Brewers were probably already the slight underdog coming into Wednesday's Game 3; an early 4-0 deficit, though, put them well behind the 8 ball.
But in the top of the second, the Brewers made this a game. Against Chris Carpenter - maybe, who knows, a cold Chris Carpenter, given that he sat in the dugout for so long - Milwaukee began the inning with three consecutive singles, all hit sharply. The third of them, by Yuniesky Betancourt, scored Rickie Weeks from second base.
That narrowed the deficit to 4-1, and Gallardo cut it to 4-2 himself when he flew out to right with a runner on third. That runner was Jerry Hairston Jr., and Lance Berkman didn't have a prayer of throwing him out at home. Or maybe he did, but he didn't try, which suggests that he did not.
The inning ended when Corey Hart struck out looking at a fastball, but two runs is nothing to be ashamed of, and one senses that there's still a long way to go in St. Louis. Not only because there might be rain in the forecast! Ha-haaaa
Mark Kotsay is starting in center field for the Brewers in Game 3 of the NLCS. The left-handed Kotsay is starting over the left-handed Nyjer Morgan against the right-handed Chris Carpenter because Morgan has been in a small slump and Kotsay is 4-for-11 against Carpenter in his career.
Of course, seven of those at bats came in 1999 and 2000, and Kotsay is a 35-year-old who isn't very good anymore. So while the expected difference between Kotsay and Morgan in one game isn't very big, you could argue that Ron Roenicke deserved this first inning.
Kotsay actually did a good thing, first. With one out in the top of the first, Kotsay drew a walk off of Carpenter, and then advanced to second when Ryan Braun got hit by a pitch. However, that was all undone when Prince Fielder subsequently flew out, and Kotsay drifted too far from the bag to get back in time. He was dead meat, as Jon Jay threw him out.
That would not be all for Kotsay. In the bottom of the first, Yovani Gallardo allowed a leadoff single to Rafael Furcal, and then uncorked a wild pitch that moved Furcal to second. Up next was Jay, who lifted a fly ball to left-center field, where it dropped just in front of a charging Kotsay. Morgan probably would have made the catch, but Kotsay didn't, so Jay wound up with an RBI double.
That's about where Kotsay ceased to be a factor as the Cardinals continued to score. After Jay's double, Albert Pujols went down and drilled a first-pitch low curveball to left-center for an RBI automatic double. Then Matt Holliday walked. Then Lance Berkman walked. So, to catch you up, that's bases loaded, nobody out, and the score already 2-0.
Gallardo then got just about the best possible outcome from Yadier Molina, as he grounded a run-scoring double play ball to second. Yet the Cardinals weren't finished. After the double play, David Freese went the other way with just another double that narrowly avoided Corey Hart's outstretched glove, and the Cards went up 4-0.
That's where the bleeding stopped, but 4-0 is a huge advantage with Chris Carpenter on the mound, and Gallardo's up to 33 pitches. Chris Narveson was throwing in the bullpen.
Via Kevin Dame, he's a graphical look at the pitches Chris Carpenter threw this season, and how well he threw them:
Carpenter throws a lot of fastballs -- as most pitchers do -- but it's not a particularly effective pitch for him, or at least it hasn't been this season. He mixes in some curveballs -- which essentially serves as his change-up, since he throws so few of those that they don't show up here -- but those haven't been that good this season, either.
Carpenter's slider, though? He throws his slider roughly a fourth of the time, and it's been his best pitch this season. In fact, by this measure Carpenter threw the fifth-most effective slider in the National League this season. So while you're watching Game 3 Wednesday night, watch for Carpenter setting up that slider with his fastball and curve.
Chris Carpenter has been around for a while, and between the injuries and the natural adjustments that pitchers make during their careers, he's made some changes since reaching the majors way back in 1997. Don't believe me, though; here's Diamond Dan Plesac with the visuals:
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has posted his Game 3 lineup, and it's a beaut!
This is the same lineup La Russa deployed in Game 2, and almost the same lineup he deployed in Game 1, the differences being that Ryan Theriot batted eighth and played second base and went hitless in Game 1 and the Cardinals lost, while Nick Punto batted eighth and played second base and went 2 for 4 in Game 2 and the Cardinals won.
Thus, Nick Punto in Game 3.
Skip Schumaker would be La Russa's favorite second baseman, except he was dropped from the NLCS roster with an oblique injury. He does hope to play in the World Series if the Cardinals advance, but for the moment it's essentially Punto or Theriot at second base. Batting eighth, because neither can hit like David Freese (or even Yadier Molina).
La Russa's bench gives him a great deal of flexibility, with one exception: He doesn't really have a decent left-handed hitter on the bench, which might make life Ron Roenicke's job just a little bit easier in the seventh inning tonight.
You read that right! Hit it, Ron Roenicke!
This entire lineup is boring and predictable, except for one part: the Mark Kotsay part. And the Mark Kotsay part happened only after considerable internal dialogue. From Adam McCalvy:
Roenicke: So we have Morgan, and Morgan's got the lefty thing going on.
Bench Coach: Yeah.
Roenicke: But Morgan's been hitting like crap.
Bench Coach: Yeah...
Roenicke: And his defense hasn't looked great.
Bench Coach: So, Gomez?
Roenicke: I don't know...
Roenicke: I mean, he's a righty, and Carpenter's a righty, and...
Roenicke: I just don't know.
Bench Coach: Should we stick with Morgan? Think it's just a passing slump?
Kotsay: I have a crazy idea!
Kotsay: *I* can start!
Roenicke: I thought you were another coach.
Mark Kotsay is left-handed, which gives him the platoon advantage against Chris Carpenter. Nyjer Morgan is also left-handed, and one would've expected him to start, but Morgan is just 3-for-20 in the playoffs and the Brewers seem concerned that he's not swinging the bat very well. Hence Kotsay. Now, Kotsay has started just nine games in center field all season, and didn't start any games in center field in 2010, so he's not exactly a defensive asset, but he's experienced out there, and Gallardo is a strikeout pitcher anyway.
Personally, I'd play Morgan. But the difference between Morgan and Kotsay in one game right now is slim, and I'll defer to the Brewers on this one, because they're in a better decision-making position than I am. For all I know, Kotsay could deliver the game-winning hit. Weirder things have happened. Yuniesky Betancourt has a .986 playoff OPS. Yuniesky Betancourt!
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