But when the Cardinals and Phillies meet in the deciding Game 5 of the National League Division Series at 8:37 p.m. eastern time, expect the pair of aces to be anything but friends.
Former teammates and roommates with the Toronto Blue Jays, Carpenter and Halladay will oppose each other on the mound for the first time in their lengthy careers Friday night. And the fishing trip the two have planned for the offseason will be the furthest thing from their minds.
"That stuff kind of goes on the back burner," Halladay said Thursday. "I think that the priorities are obviously with our team. It's going to be competitive. Once you get to this point, you're going out trying to help your team win.
"We have talked back and forth throughout the series, but I think we both — we get to this point, and it's down to business. The friendships kind of go by the wayside, I think, after this point."
The marquee matchup Friday will be just the third time in baseball history that former Cy Young Award winners have met in the deciding game of a playoff series. Halladay won the award with the Blue Jays in 2003 and again with the Phillies in 2010. Carpenter won the award with the Cardinals in 2005.
The two can't remember when exactly they first met. Both say it was probably on a back field during spring training with the Blue Jays at some point during the mid-1990s. Carpenter was the 15th overall selection by Toronto in the 1993 Draft while Halladay was the 17th overall pick by the Blue Jays just two years later in 1995.
Carpenter broke into the big leagues with Toronto at just 22 years old in 1997, making 14 appearances and posting a 5.09 ERA. The right-hander started 24 games and made nine more appearances out of the bullpen the next year in 1998, the same year Halladay made his Major League debut with two September appearances.
The two pitched together the next four years with the Blue Jays and became close friends before Carpenter became injured and left in the offseason to sign a free agent deal with the Cardinals.
Carpenter recalls many nights when the two would share a few beers in the hotel on the road and talk about pitching, life or whatever else was on their minds.
"Even though I'm a little older than him, we went through a lot of the same issues at the same time," Carpenter said. "So there was a lot of conversation on not understanding what's going on and why these things are — why we can't just get out of the fourth inning and why we can't do this. There's all kinds of different things, and I think it was just being able to be a sound board to one another and being able to say, ‘Listen, I'm going through the same things you're going through,' and him being able to say, ‘I'm going through some of the same things you're going through,' and being able to learn and get through those problems and those issues together.
"A lot of it was mental. We both knew we had quality stuff. But mentally, as young kids with high expectations on your, this game is hard, and if you can't control that stuff in your mind and the game goes a thousand miles an hour, you're going to have a hard time executing and fortunately we were able to figure it out."
Carpenter's career took off when he arrived in St. Louis. The right-hander went 15-5 with a 3.46 ERA in his first season with the Cardinals in 2004 before winning the Cy Young Award in 2005 by going 21-5 with a 2.83 ERA.
The right-hander missed nearly all of the 2007 and 2008 seasons due to arm injuries but rebounded and made the 2009 All-Star team, his third appearance in the Midsummer Classic in six years with the Cardinals.
Carpenter started off 2011 slow, going 1-7 with a 4.47 ERA in his first 15 starts. But as whispers began to get louder about the veteran running out of gas, Carpenter proved everybody wrong in the second half of the season. Starting with a start against the Phillies on June 23, Carpenter went 10-2 with a 2.73 ERA over his final 19 starts of the year. Halladay joined Philadelphia before the 2010 season after 12 years with the Blue Jays. The right-hander won the Cy Young Award in his first season with the Phillies by going 21-10 with a 2.44 ERA. He had an even better season this year, going 19-6 with a 2.35 ERA in the regular season.
The eight-time All-Star faced the Cardinals in Game 1, allowing a three-run homer to Lance Berkman in the first inning before retiring the final 21 hitters he faced in a Phillies victory.
Carpenter made his first career start on three day's rest in Game 2 and was removed after allowing four runs in just three innings of work. He's back on normal rest for his start in Game 5 and is likely chomping at the bit for another chance at the Phillies.
Despite both veterans being in the league since 1998, Friday will mark the first time the two friends have opposed each other on the mound. Their teams have met many times before, including three series' this season, but the pitching rotations have never aligned the two to pitch on the same day.
"We had a lot of fun playing together," Halladay said. "I think watching each other pitch on opposing teams is — it's different because you're trying not to root for them, but by the same token they're good friends of yours.
"I'm looking forward to it. I know he is, too, and you know, it's just the way things played out. It's going to be a great challenge for both of us."
But regardless of who wins Friday night, the two don't plan on letting the game get in the way of their friendship. Or their fishing trip.
"We'll be able to talk about it I'm sure, no question about it," Carpenter said. "I mean, we're still — even though we're competitive and wanting to win, we're still friends. It's not going to end anything. It's not that bad."
Fri., October 7: at PHILLIES: Chris Carpenter vs. Roy Halladay, 7:37 P.M. CDT (TBS, ESPN Radio, KMOX).
VIDEO FROM FOXSPORTSMIDWEST.COM
Tony La Russa and Chris Carpenter discuss the upcoming game and their animal friends in attendance.
Tony La Russa's full Thursday comments (from MLB and ASAP Sports)
Q. Last weekend, I don't know if you have a sixth sense or not, but you were talking about a potential Carpenter versus Halladay. Now that it's here how excited are you for it?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, it may be a better word, but I think classic. I don't know, I thought about it seriously when we were on the second game, so there was a realistic chance to make it happen. I think it's just fascinating because we were talking to some people yesterday, it's not just a match-up of two great pitchers, it's their background together. I don't know if it's ever happened in an elimination game like this that two guys who were teammates, Minor League, Major League, still maintain a friendship, this may be the first time ever. But that caliber, the way we feel about competing against the Phillies, just the two of them is classic. It's just a great opportunity, very exciting.
Q. Even when you guys haven't racked up runs in this series, it seems like y'all have done a good job of getting base runners, working at-bats against what's a pretty good staff. What do you see that you guys are doing offensively that's working and that's made you able to have some success against them?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, first of all, they're veteran and a pretty good staff. They're a very good staff. And you know, we've made some things happen. We've also had a lot of opportunities and didn't cash in because they're very good. Yeah, it's just as simple as competing. You know, if you just talk about the pitching, you know how they're going to compete. The starting pitchers are competitors, not just trying, but knowing what they're doing. The relievers they bring in for the most part are veterans that know what they're doing, too. You've just got to compete against them. That's what hitting against pitching like that is, and the Phillies compete, so we're competing on the defensive side. And then you have to just figure out what competing means.
Q. Because your team has played in so many games down the stretch just to get to this point from the regular season, now here in Game 5, is your team better prepared to handle the onslaught, the pressure of a Game 5 elimination than say other teams maybe not because of what you had to go through to get here?
TONY LA RUSSA: I think we're as prepared as any. I mean, I think -- you know, this is -- compared to the Phillies, these guys have been through this over and over again for five years. So they are very prepared. Our group is younger. There are some guys taking major at-bats, having major roles as pitchers that are just getting their first real taste of it or second taste. So I think the fact it's been so hard for us and the guys have responded means that we're as prepared, because instead of taking five years they had to grow up in a hurry. Yeah, they're excited, and it's just a good feeling to know that tomorrow we'll take our best shot, and they're going to bring their best shot, and that's the way you play the game and see what the score is.
Q. Can you walk us through some of the guys who are hurt or injured or playing sore, Holliday, Schumaker, and what their availability is for tomorrow? And how do you view I guess it would be Lohse and his possibility of being in the bullpen tomorrow? Is it kind of all hands on deck tomorrow, or do you push somebody aside just in case?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, first of all, because we just arrived, you hit the questions that we need to get answered once we get in uniform. We've made it optional, and I saw all the guys that were on our bus, I peeked in the clubhouse, guys that were on the other bus, I'm guessing that Matt and Skip are going to be here, but until they go through their deals, I don't know their availability. I probably have more of a question about Skip than I do about Matt because I think at the end of the game yesterday Matt felt -- with a day's rest, I don't see it going backwards, but I could be wrong. But Skip, it's a leg thing, it's a cramp, but cramp is something having to do with muscular. But we'll see how it feels.
And on the pitching side, I think everybody that could be pitch will be listed except for Edwin.
Q. Carpenter's last start there were a couple of things that came into play. He was pitching on short rest and the strike zone became a topic of conversation during that game, as well. How much do you anticipate Chris being better or that being kind of an abnormal start for him, what happened last time?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, the first time he's ever done it. He was not as sharp, and that may have been the reason. There's no reason to think it wasn't.
The strike zone was not a real issue with him. His delivery was not good early. And in fact, if you saw like the third inning and as he got into it, Dunc (Duncan) recognized what it was, talked to him between innings, and he adjusted it. We're feeling like his delivery is going to start good tomorrow and he'll be the Chris Carpenter we know he is.
Q. Your daughter tweeted Tuesday night that given your love for animals that there was a 98 percent chance that you were taking the rally squirrel home with you on Tuesday. After its appearance again last night, did you bring it with you today? And if you did, was it tough getting it through security?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, we've kind of figured -- you know about Allen Craig's pet tortoise? Do you know about that? Allen Craig has a pet tortoise, and my understanding is that the squirrel was the tortoise's pass to the game, and they're supposed to be here tomorrow together, and I don't know if the tortoise took a walk and the squirrel panicked. I don't know the rest of that story, but I think that the squirrel is attached to Craig's tortoise, and I'm expecting them to be here tomorrow. Maybe they have a suite so they won't be running on the field. I've never met it. I actually want to meet the tortoise. The squirrel, too.
Q. Is there any real likelihood, assuming health, that your lineup looks any different tomorrow than it did last night?
TONY LA RUSSA: You know, yesterday -- I don't know if it was factual, but maybe got a little more tension about -- I don't really think David (Freese) was really ever in jeopardy of not being in the lineup. But what you do, that's the fun part of playing games in October. It's just all about now, you're not looking ahead. So we'll get together, whether it's this afternoon.
Tomorrow is an 8:30 game, so we've got plenty of time. But we'll get the coaches together and look at the 14 guys, and there may be a call or two. The injury thing is a factor, but we'll get them together. I don't think there will be any big surprises. I know that I did write the lineup on a plane at night going back, the Game 5 lineup. I think there will be a difference or two from that Game 5 lineup.
Q. Can you talk about the challenge facing Halladay, what you saw last time facing him and the fact that your players have not had a lot of career at-bats against him, does that help or does that hurt?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, when you get the caliber of pitcher that he is, you can face him -- you can be in the same division with him, face him 15, 16 times a year and get four at-bats every one of those games and face him for five years. He just has so many weapons that he can attack you every at bat, totally different. And if you count the number of pitches and you multiply them, it's just -- he's got a very heady catcher.
I said it yesterday, if you enjoy this part of it, and I really do, the defensive part of it, watching Ruiz and Molina, I mean, that's as good as it gets. I mean, they're both brilliant back there, especially when they have guys with talent on the mound to work with.
Little exposure, a lot of exposure, hopefully he's not sharp.
Q. How are the two starting pitchers similar, both kind of on and off the field with their demeanor and everything?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, I don't know Halladay very well. I just know what people have told me about him and I've talked to Carp about him over the years. I think they're very similar because they learned the value of hard work in between starts. They've learned the value of putting a lot of thought and preparation into the day they pitch, and from the first pitch to the last to the man who takes the ball away, they compete like maniacs. And I know they have a lot of shared experiences about what they've learned that's made them so successful. I think a lot of similarity, but I don't know if Roy Halladay is quiet or loud. I mean, I don't know. I know Carp, but very, very similar.
Q. The last few games you guys have done a pretty good job neutralizing Howard. Charlie thinks they've been a little too aggressive. Do you think you guys have been able to take advantage of that, or what have you seen on that end?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, first of all, there's nothing -- no secret scouting report we have. I think one of the reasons Charlie is so respected, he knows the whole game, but he's an outstanding hitting coach and he can recognize things about hitters, all hitters. I can remember a few years ago when Albert (Pujols) got off to a great start, Charlie is the first one that noticed it. People thought they'd get Albert out inside and he was taking an inside ball and hitting it out of the park in April. He was the first guy that noticed it. I saw what he said about some of the hitters and about Ryan, and they'll make some adjustments. But that's what this game is about. There were adjustments made in that game yesterday by the pitchers in the first inning, and it didn't happen very much the rest.
They have a lot of good hitters like Ryan Howard, and if you throw the pitch that's got a lot of the plate, we're not going to be successful.
Chris Carpenter's Thursday comments
Q. Can you describe your friendship and some of the things you do off the field with Roy?
CHRIS CARPENTER: Well, it's been a pretty good friendship for a long time. We've pitched together, we've vacationed together, we communicate a bunch during the off-season and during the season. He just invited me to go fishing this winter, so I mean, we've got a real good relationship. It's going to be a lot of fun.
Q. Your thoughts on pitching this game, how important it is, and how you kind of temper it and not get too anxious?
CHRIS CARPENTER: Yeah, I mean, it's obviously a huge game, but you control your emotions, you can control distractions. I've been in big games before, I've pitched in World Series games, I've pitched in other playoff games.
The game the other night against Houston could have ended our season, also. Granted, this is the postseason and you're facing a quality Phillies club, but the less distractions you have and the more control of your thoughts makes it easier. You go out and you do the things that you can only control, and that's execute pitches.
Q. When you say he just invited you to go fishing, do you mean just like minutes ago or within the last 24 hours?
CHRIS CARPENTER: No, no, it's been a few days.
Q. Do you recall the first time you met him, and was it pitching that you guys bonded over? Was it fishing? Was there more to it? Is there kind of a deeper personality connection than just on the mound?
CHRIS CARPENTER: Yeah, I would say obviously baseball, one; and then after that, we fished a bunch. And we spent Spring Training one year, me and him and my wife and his wife before we had kids renting in the same condo. We owned a boat together that Spring Training, and we'd fish every night and sometimes get up in the morning and go fishing in the morning before anything had to start. Golf, I mean, we did all kinds of different things together.
Q. Other the years you've mentioned the influence that Pat Hentgen had on you in Toronto and Doc (Halladay) just mentioned him a while ago in his press conference. What did he mean to your career specifically? And my second question is: Are you looking forward to batting against Doc? Is that something you've always wanted to do?
CHRIS CARPENTER: Pat, I was very fortunate to play with a lot of guys in Toronto, all kinds of different ways, all kinds of different personalities that touched my career in different ways. I'll never forget Pat, my first big league Spring Training, I showed up, and obviously I had -- they had high expectations for me and what I meant to that organization, and back in the day, and I think the game has changed a bit now where the veteran players aren't so hard on the younger players as they were back then, but you walk into Spring Training and you were nervous, you were concerned about if they were going to like you, if they weren't going to like you, how they were going to treat you.
I'll never forget sitting on Field 3 at Engelberg Complex that we only had three fields at the time and a half field, I'm not sure what they've got over there now. But Field 3, I was sitting down there and sitting on the bench by myself and Pat came over and sat on the bench next to me and he just started talking, asking me how I felt, what I'm doing, and we just started having a conversation, a little bit about Spring Training, a little bit about family and all kinds of things. And I couldn't believe what a quality person he was. And he kind of took me under his wing.
After, he truly showed me how to be professional, how to act on the day that you pitch, how serious you need to take that day, how important that day is for you. You get to do it one every five times, and Pat took a lot of pride in taking that ball and going out there, and that's something I took from him.
I'm not going to concern myself with hitting against Doc. I'll let the other guys do that, and I'll I do my best to get the Phillies hitters out.
Q. The team won your Game 2 start, but I know you may not have been at your best. How badly do you want to get out there and pitch the way you normally pitch for this team?
CHRIS CARPENTER: Yeah, I'm looking forward to it, no question. I wasn't sharp in Game 2, but I'm looking forward to doing a better job, I can tell you that much, and it's going to be fun. It's going to be an exciting night, great atmosphere, and I'm going to go out and do the best I can.
Q. Tony mentioned that I guess it was the third inning where Dunc talked to you about your delivery, and you kind of got that straightened out. Can you elaborate on that?
CHRIS CARPENTER: I was just spinning off a little bit. Like I said, I wasn't as sharp as I would have liked, so I was trying to find any way I could to get the ball where I wanted it, and it just wasn't happening. I started spinning a little bit instead of driving the ball down through the strike zone, and Dunc spoke a little bit about it, and I went out and tried to make the adjustment. I was able to do it and fortunately was able to get through that inning with a zero and gave us a chance to come back like we did.
Q. How do you think that you and Roy helped each other as young pitchers back in Toronto during your time there together?
CHRIS CARPENTER: Yeah, I've spoken about this before, and I think that even though I'm a little older than him, we went through a lot of the same issues at the same time, so there was a lot of just conversation on not understanding what's going on and why these things are -- why we can't get out of the fourth inning and why we can't do this, and there's all kinds of different things. And I think it was just being able to be a sound board to one another of being able to say, listen, I'm going through the same things you're going through and him being able to say I am going through some of the same things you're going through and being able to learn and get through those problems and those issues together.
Like I said before, a lot of it was mental. We both knew that we had quality stuff. But mentally as young kids with high expectations on you, this game is hard, and if you can't control that stuff in your mind and the game goes a thousand miles an hour, you're going to have a hard time executing, and fortunately we were able to figure it out.
Q. As ultra competitive as both you and Roy are, when you're on a boat this winter or fishing together, are you going to be able to talk about this game after it's over, regardless of how it turns out, or will it be too sensitive a subject?
CHRIS CARPENTER: No, we'll be able to talk about it I'm sure, no question about it. I mean, we're still -- even though we're competitive and wanting to win, I mean, we're still friends, and it's not going to end anything. It's not that bad.
Q. Given what you guys have gone through to get here in this fifth game, how special is this group given the battles you've had this final month of the season and in this playoff series?
CHRIS CARPENTER: Yeah, I said after we got in that night in Houston, this is a real special group of guys. One of the greatest and most pleasurable seasons I've ever had with a group of guys. How much we enjoy being around each other, how much we enjoy coming to the ballpark and hanging out and talking and messing around and clowning around and all those things, and then obviously out doing business on the field and playing as hard as we can and pulling for one another. It's been a pleasure, no matter -- and I said this in Houston after we got in. No matter what happens, it could be a crazy ride and we end up in the World Series or winning the World Series, who knows, but no matter what happens, this group of guys is very special. They can't take anything that we've done away from us. We've had our backs against the wall for a good period now, and we continue to battle back. Our guys just -- like I said, it's just been amazing. My game against Cliff Lee, who's got, what, seven shutouts or something this year and dominating their rotation, and I'm supposed to go out and set the tone and I give up four in two innings and our guys battle back against a tough guy like him.
We did it the other night against Roy who had our number, pitched well in the postseason, been very successful, they go out and score two quick ones, we come back on them, get one back in the bottom and continue to battle until we break it open. These guys are very, very special, and it's going to be a year that I'll never forget.