Staked to a 3-0 lead and pitching well against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 1 of the NLDS Saturday afternoon, Kyle Lohse had the St. Louis Cardinals sitting pretty – for awhile.
The lead, established by Lance Berkman's first-inning home run off Phillies ace Roy Halladay, evaporated when Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez went deep to power a five-run sixth inning. The home club went on to claim an 11-6 win.
After retiring the first 10 Phillies, Lohse ended up allowing six runs, five earned, on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings.
Halladay was far more impressive, sitting down all 21 Cardinals batters faced from the second through eighth innings. The Cards plated three in the ninth against the Phillies' pen, with Skip Schumaker's two-run double the key hit, but it was too little, too late.
In Sunday's Game 2, the Cardinals will give the ball to their ace, Chris Carpenter, pitching for the first time ever on three days rest. The Phils will answer with Cliff Lee. First pitch is scheduled at 7:37 P.M. CT. The game will be televised on TBS and audio available nationally on ESPN Radio and KMOX.
--1B Albert Pujols was lifted for a ninth-inning pinch runner due to a sore left ankle and heel. Both he and manager Tony La Russa said Pujols would be back in the starting lineup Sunday.
--PH Matt Holliday, who did not start because of tendinitis in his right hand, struck out to end the game. Afterward, manager Tony La Russa said he did not know Holliday's status moving forward but wanted to see him get an at-bat. Holliday left Tuesday's game after re-injuring his hand, then sat out the regular-season finale Wednesday.
--RHP Kyle McClellan, who was with the Cardinals all season save for a 15-day stint on the disabled list in June, was left off the playoff roster. McClellan went 7-6 with a 4.15 ERA in 18 games (17 starts) to open the season, then was moved to the bullpen. He went 5-1 with a 4.35 ERA over his final 25 relief outings, but he had a 7.71 ERA in 12 September outings. Manager Tony La Russa said McClellan has a tired arm.
--RF Lance Berkman hit a three-run, first-inning homer off Philadelphia RHP Roy Halladay, his only hit in four at-bats. It was his first playoff game in a Cardinals uniform. Berkman is a career .310 hitter in 35 postseason games for the Astros, Yankees and now the Cardinals.
--RHP Chris Carpenter will start Game 2 on three days' rest. He threw a two-hit shutout Wednesday against the Astros to pitch the Cardinals into the playoffs, capping a surge in which he went 10-2 with a 2.73 ERA in his final 19 starts.
--SS Rafael Furcal, who sat out the final two games of the regular season due to a strained left hamstring, returned to action in the playoff opener. He went 1-for-4 in the leadoff spot.
--OF Adron Chambers, who was a September call-up, made the playoff roster to give the Cardinals a speedy reserve. He made his postseason debut Saturday and had an RBI single and scored a run. Chambers went 3-for-8 (.375) in 18 regular-season games for St. Louis, appearing mostly as a pinch runner or a defensive replacement.
BY THE NUMBERS: Infinity -- LHP Marc Rzepczynski's postseason ERA after his first playoff outing Saturday. He faced three batters and allowed three hits and three runs.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The one thing you're not going to do is ... outscore them with their starting pitching. That's not going to be a good formula." -- Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, talking about the Phillies' rotation.
--1B Albert Pujols (sore left ankle and heel) left the Oct. 1 game. He said he would be in the starting lineup Oct. 2.
--LF Matt Holliday (strained tendon in right palm) re-injured his hand Sept. 27 and left the game, and he didn't play Sept. 28. He didn't start the opener of the NL Division Series, but he appeared as a pinch hitter.
--SS Rafael Furcal (strained left hamstring) left the Sept. 26 game, didn't play Sept. 27-28. He was back in the lineup for the playoff opener.
Tony La Russa post-game comments
Q. Can you just talk about your decision to leave Lohse in to face Ibañez, and whether you contemplated taking him out before that at bat?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I watched the inning. First of all, he pitched very effectively, and I watched the inning develop. The ball that Rollins hit to start it was off the end of the bat. That's what you get, well placed.
I keep watching, he strikes out Utley, which is a tough out, and then he gets a hopper from Pence. I haven't seen him do anything wrong, both up the middle, found a hole. Pretty tough to take him out there. I know Howard is a real tough match up, and he did what we did the rest of the night, got a ball in the middle of the strike zone for his first home run, and then he made another mistake to Ibañez. But at that point he pitched Ibañez tough, so I thought it was too early to get him. But that's a home run.
And then later on, we did the same thing, get two strikes, some balls here a couple, three times. My decision was based on what I had seen. I didn't see him do anything wrong. He's a guy with a really tough arm, he got a 3-2 pitch in the middle of the plate when he was trying to pitch him tough, and he just missed and he hit it.
Q. You got a little bit of a jump on Halladay. He obviously settled back and became himself. Did you just feel like he'd settled himself in or was he doing anything differently?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I thought that was a good way to start the game, but we were saying in the dugout, three runs was not going to win the game. We were trying, and he just made a lot of pitches and got us out. Probably could have made it a little tougher on him at times, but overall he just deserves the credit.
Q. You go to a pinch runner there with Laird for Pujols?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, his heel was barking. There was no reason at that point. We keep scoring and his start comes up. I wish it wouldn't have, but his heel was barking, and he didn't want to run the bases in the ninth. He'll play tomorrow.
Q. Was that going into the game or did something happen during the game?
TONY LA RUSSA: He's fought that the whole last part of the season. Every once in a while he'll hit wrong and it barks.
Q. Seemed like in that first winning you came out, Furcal gets the hit, and you started running. Was that the mindset right away was just to aggressively get up on top and start scoring right away?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I think if you go against somebody like Halladay and you wait around waiting to string a bunch of hits, you're not going to score, so we were going to try to push the rest of the game and never got anybody on. That's kind of our style, but you've got to get somebody on. We just couldn't get anything going. We had a couple chances there that next inning. He got tougher and tougher, and there wasn't much.
Q. The fact that you had to get Rzepczynski and Boggs in a situation like this, just your thoughts on how they did being exposed in the playoffs like that?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, here again, you look at Marc's little ground ball off his glove, right, and they did a good job putting the ball in play, and that's part of winning baseball, because balls do find holes, and they found holes, and then they did the other part where he made a mistake, he had a ball, he threw to Utley over the plate and that's a base hit. Boggs comes in there and he made a good pitch on Pence, and then 0 2 twice, I think, on breaking balls. The guy is not trying to hang them, but they did a good job of hitting the misses and we did a bad job of not putting hitters away.
Q. Too early on Holliday for tomorrow?
TONY LA RUSSA: That's one of the things, I wanted him to hit. First of all, the game was there. But I'll be interested to see how he came out of it. I don't know.
Q. Was this kind of a formula, you guys would need to beat the Phillies, get the pitchers early, get the early runs and then hope that your starter and your bullpen can close them out?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I think you go against them, we got six runs today, a little misleading. The starting pitcher has got the responsibility to hold them down, and we've been doing a good job of that, and our bullpen has been good.
The one thing you're not going to do is you have to outscore them with their starting pitching and that's not going to be a good formula.
Chris Carpenter Saturday afternoon interview
Q. What does it take in terms of pitching on short rest? It doesn't look like your career has a long history of that. How do you approach it? Is it different for you in terms of getting ready?
No, not really. I'm excited about it to be honest with you. I don't know if I've
ever done it. Somebody brought it to my attention that I hadn't, but I would
assume that I have at some point in time. But any ways, not at all. I feel good.
I feel like the day in
I'm excited about tomorrow. My body is healthy, I feel good, and I'm strong. So I'm excited about it.
Q. By that answer you may not remember this, but I seem to recall the last time you were all in the playoffs, there was at least a consideration to have you start on short rest. Do you recall at all how you prepared for that?
CHRIS CARPENTER: No, sorry. I don't remember.
Q. When you come out of Houston then and they approach you about doing this on short rest, is it how your stuff felt, or is it how your arm felt, body felt the next day that kind of dictated your answer?
CHRIS CARPENTER: I think it's on how I recover, not about my stuff. My stuff is fine. It's about how you recover. I've been recovering great all year in between starts.
So again, they came to me the day before we left. I went down to the ballpark and grabbed my stuff and had to get my luggage and stuff and Tony (La Russa) mentioned it to me, he said be alert and be aware just in case, we'll let you know the final decision tomorrow, which was yesterday when we got here.
I told him, I said, I feel good. I'm fine with it. If you guys want me to do it, we'll do it, but if not, we won't, and it's your call. Yesterday before we got here, he told me he was going to have me do it.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the prospect of facing this lineup? You've had success here, success against these guys in this ballpark. Does it make fastball command down even more important than, say, anywhere else?
No. And I'm a big believer, and you can talk about ballparks, you can talk about
whatever you want; if you don't get the ball down in the strike zone at any
ballpark, these guys are going to get you. If you don't control the counts,
these guys are going to get you no matter who you're facing and what you're
doing. They can hit it out in
You're facing a team that obviously from top to bottom are tough at bats against you. That's why they're here. That's why they've won 100 something games and have been on top of their division for a while. These guys grind out professional at bats. It's a great competition for a pitcher to go against a lineup like this, because if you make any mistakes they're going to make you pay for it, like I said, no matter what ballpark. So it makes it a lot of fun. That's what the game is all about. You go out there, it's a competition between me and them, and it's me trying to execute one pitch against whatever hitter it is, one pitch at a time, and hopefully the results are good.
I know you go back with Halladay back to your days in
CHRIS CARPENTER: Yeah, we do. Actually I talk to him a lot, and his wife and my wife are still close friends, also. You know, people have asked me these questions over the years, and now more even now that these playoffs we're going to be facing each other and all these things.
Me and Doc went through a lot of the same things at the same time. Even though I was a few years older than him and had a few more years in the Big Leagues than him at the time or a year or whatever, we kind of had similar struggles at the same time, and it was not about stuff, it was about being able to control our minds, and that's what I was saying about the distractions.
When I was a young kid, it was all about oh, man, I've got Joe Schmo behind the
plate that doesn't call a strike and doesn't like young guys or whatever it was, wind is blowing out here in Baltimore, what am I going to do, these guys are going to crush me, I've got no chance, it was all about confidence and having to eliminate distractions. We went through a lot those times together and learned together, so those are similarities between us.
What I respect the most about him
is he's an unbelievable professional, and where he's come from. You look back on
his career, and I mean, I was in
Q. I'm wondering, did he give you the Dorfman book?
No, we started that together actually. Doc started it and then
Q. I know early in the season you had some bad luck from a won lost standpoint, but it looks like your performance has gotten better in the second half. Anything you're doing lately that's better now than it was early?
CHRIS CARPENTER: Yeah. Early on in the season, it was not just bad luck, there was some bad pitching, there was a lot of things that were going on, and I wasn't pitching as well as I should have been. So you're always looking to try to find a way to get better.
One thing that I'm doing is I'm getting ahead in the counts and controlling the counts better than I did early on, which makes it easier to get the ball out of the strike zone when you're ahead in the count and get guys swinging and those sort of things.
I'm just being more consistent with command, keeping the ball down. And those big innings, a lot of the trouble early on, I had a lot of big innings, and I couldn't figure out why I was I couldn't get out of those big innings. I kept giving up four, five runs an inning, and unfortunately it was happening, and now fortunately it's not. I've found a way to continue to make pitches and control the counts.
Q. Question about preparation: How much of what goes into your preparation is about your history with a player, maybe 20 or 30 at bats, or 50, compared to maybe how they've done the last month as a hitter, and in the heat of the moment or during the game does some of that stuff go out the window based upon what you're feeling confident with, with a certain pitch, and it doesn't matter what your history is with the player?
CHRIS CARPENTER: Yeah, you look at for me personally, I know what my stuff is and I know what I'm going to do. I've got a fastball, a curveball, a cutter and a change up, and I know I'm going to use all four of them and I'm going to attack the strike zone. I don't specifically look at the history that I've gone Ryan Howard or Chase Utley or whoever it is, I don't really look at what they've done against me. I just know what I am going to do.
I prepare, I have this little plan
of what I'm going to do, and then the game dictates the at bat dictates what's
going on. That's what makes it fun about pitching, and that's what makes it
hard. The guys were talking about
Q. I think the description we've heard from Tony and Dunc is you physically appeared to have gotten stronger. I wonder what you attribute that to and if there's been any kind of change between your starts, fewer side sessions or less intensive side sessions here recently?
CHRIS CARPENTER: No. Well, first of all, I don't even recall the last time I threw a side this year. Unless there's something going on with my pitches or my mechanics or something that I don't feel comfortable with, I'm not an enormous fan of having to get up on the mound because you have to throw a side. I don't have to throw a side. You don't have to do that. I keep my arm in shape and keep my body in shape. And if my stuff is good and I have nothing to work on, there's no reason to waste my bullets up on the side just because you're supposed to do that. So no, I haven't thrown a side for months.
That being said, throughout the season I continue to work all year long, and I don't allow myself to stop. I stay strong, I continue my workouts, I continue running, I continue to do all those things to not fade and to be strong because this is the most important time, and for me I think that you can take a lot you can take a big advantage of yourself being stronger at the end, especially like if you're facing guys or other teams the last month that are looking forward to going home and they're packing their stuff or guys that aren't working and they're a little tired and I'm not, you can take advantage of that, and it also helps you mentally because I know that I'm prepared.
Q. I was just wondering, you've had one post season start since '06. Back then it was like an every year occurrence going deep. At this point in your career with this opportunity, do you look at it differently now than you may have four, five, six years ago, what's in front of you here?
CHRIS CARPENTER: Meaning an opportunity to pitch in the post season?
CHRIS CARPENTER: Well, I mean, that's the fun about it. Do I look at it any differently? No. I'm looking forward to going out and competing against a quality club. Are you talking about like if it's not going to happen again, or
Q. Well, it's been a while since you had a sustained opportunity in the post season.
CHRIS CARPENTER: I look at it as a fun opportunity any time. I don't take it any differently, no.