The Cardinals may have found the horse they've been looking to ride all season.
Over the winter, they thought they had two aces in right-handers Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter. But Wainwright went out for the season in February with Tommy John elbow surgery, and Carpenter won just one of his first 15 starts.
But now Carpenter has won
each of his past two, including his first complete-game win of the season, 5-1
The Cardinals scored just their second series victory in their last six and moved one game behind the first-place Brewers in the NL Central race.
Carpenter (3-7) received some of the Cardinals' best defense of the season, as shortstop Nick Punto, second baseman Skip Schumaker and right fielder Jon Jay all made outstanding plays. And Carpenter, who got out of a bases-loaded, no-out spot in the fifth, was able to pitch around left fielder Matt Holliday's muff of a ninth-inning flyball that would have ended the game a few pitches earlier.
"As the game went on, my command got better. I started getting the ball down," Carpenter said. "I felt strong all night.
"We've got guys making plays and scoring runs, and it makes the game easy. It was a lot of fun, no question about it."
Schumaker made a glove-hand flip to first on a slow chopper to nip speedy Orioles left fielder Felix Pie in the seventh. "I'm not going to try that again," Schumaker said. "That was a miracle."
Schumaker, who has played behind Carpenter both in the outfield and in the infield for the last five years, said, "He's got his stuff back, and he's commanding the zone better than he had. The guy was throwing 95 (mph) 120 pitches in.
"When his stuff is right and he's healthy, he's our horse. I just knew it was going to come together eventually, and it is. He's the kind of guy who we can ride for a long way and can rattle off a 10-game streak and be the guy who can take us out of this funk, if we are in one."
Related article: "Carpenter throws most pitches since 1998"
2B Skip Schumaker extended his hitting streak to eight games (11-for-28, .393) by going 2-for-5. He admitted it took him awhile to get his timing back after being out five weeks with a right triceps strain and then an abbreviated rehab option. "Some guys can come back with minimal at-bats," Schumaker said. "I'm not good enough for that."
Manager Tony La Russa allowed RHP Chris Carpenter to throw a season-high 132 pitches. It was Carpenter's third consecutive start in which he's thrown 124 or more. "He had an extra day of rest," La Russa said. "Unfortunately, next time out there (on Monday), he's on time." But La Russa added, "He was exerting more early in the game. After that, he had a lot of quick innings. Carp was the best guy we had."
La Russa also pointed out that RHP Mitchell Boggs wasn't available because of minor back injury and that he wanted to stay away from RHP Fernando Salas, who had to get five outs the night before when RHP Ryan Franklin couldn't finish the game.
RHP Ryan Franklin, an
All-Star closer two years ago, was released after giving up nine homers in 27
2/3 innings and hanging up an 8.46 ERA. It was an uncomfortable situation
The team will replace him on the roster Thursday.
Related article: "Ex-Closer Franklin Released by Cardinals"
CF Colby Rasmus is enjoying a revival. He homered for the second night in a row. Rasmus recently has lowered his hands at the plate, picked up a slight leg kick again as a trigger mechanism and has changed his contacts after an eye exam revealed his vision wasn't quite what it should be. "He's got no fear," manager Tony La Russa said. "He's not afraid of big situations, and he's got tremendous talent. That's what we've hoped for. And now we've got David (Freese) back and the lineup gets deeper. You put Albert (Pujols) in there, and it looks really nice."
3B David Freese contributed for the second night offensively after coming off the disabled list, driving in a run with a single in the fifth.
SS Nick Punto, who also came off the DL before Tuesday's game, had his second straight two-hit night, scored a run and played a strong game in the field.
BY THE NUMBERS: 380—Pitches thrown by RHP Chris Carpenter in his last three starts, covering 24 innings.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was getting to where he expected something bad to happen much more than he expected something good to happen."
—Pitching coach Dave Duncan, on struggling RHP Ryan Franklin, who was given his unconditional release Wednesday.
RHP Eduardo Sanchez (mild right shoulder strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 13. He is unlikely to return before mid-July.
1B Albert Pujols (sprained left wrist) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 20. Pujols was diagnosed with a non-displaced fracture of the radius bone in his left forearm, and he will be out until late July or early August.
OF Allen Craig (broken right kneecap) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 8. He will be out until July.
C Gerald Laird (broken right index finger) went on the 15-day disabled list May 23. He will be out until July.
RHP Adam Wainwright (Tommy John surgery in February 2011) went on the 60-day disabled list March 25. He will miss the entire 2011 season. He was scheduled to play catch on flat ground in late June.