The Cardinals will begin the second week of their longest trip of the year Monday in Florida with one of the premier pitching matchups of the season. RHP Chris Carpenter will seek a major league-best 19th victory against Florida fireballer A.J. Burnett, who recently had a seven-game winning streak stopped.
Carpenter has won 10 straight and his team has won his last 13 starts as he has mixed all four of his pitches with impeccable control. He also has been durable, lasting eight or more innings in nine of his last 11 starts.
Tony La Russa is trying to help Carpenter win the Cy Young Award in what should be a hot battle with Houston RHP Roger Clemens, but the manager also has pulled him after eight innings in his last two starts. Any pitches Carpenter can save now, he can use in postseason play.
As many will remember, Carpenter was denied a chance to pitch in his first postseason last year when he was set back by a biceps tendinitis ailment he acquired with just more than two weeks left in the season.
Carpenter's next start after Monday probably will be Sunday in Houston. Carpenter will have seven starts to win the two games he needs for his first 20-win season.
RHP Matt Morris will pitch Tuesday, as he tries to become the third 15-game winner on the staff (LHP Mark Mulder is already there, as is Carpenter). Last year, the club had four 15-game winners. RHP Jeff Suppan needs three wins to make that a foursome again this year.
Mulder should be recovered from his stiff neck in order to open the Houston series on Friday.
--Sparky Anderson, whom manager Tony La Russa of the Cardinals passed for third place on the career victory list for managers Thursday night, opined recently that La Russa, 60, could wind up second behind the legendary Connie Mack if he wanted to.
La Russa, who had to cut short a pre-game television interview the night before when he dashed to home plate because his pitching coach had got into a dustup, was the subject of almost every interviewer Thursday night. His team gave him a 6-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates that raised his career victory total to 2,195, one ahead of Anderson and perhaps six more good years behind the New York Giants' McGraw, who had 2,763 victories.
--After the pre-game tumult between the staffs of the Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates had subsided Wednesday night, RHP Chris Carpenter was his usual calming influence -- at least to his Cardinals teammates.
Carpenter was not at his absolute best, but he was in command enough to post his major-league-high 18th victory in an 8-3 dissection of the Pirates, a team he has beaten five times in six career decisions. But while this No. 18 garnered considerable national attention, so did the number 2,194. That is the number of victories the Cardinals' Tony La Russa has in his big-league managing career, tying him for third place on the career list with Sparky Anderson.
--After struggling RHP Jason Marquis had labored in a 10-0 loss here on Aug. 23, La Russa had said he wanted to wait a couple of days before deciding whether Marquis would stay in the rotation. Marquis, who had won just one of his last 13 starts and had dropped seven in a row, threw a bullpen session Thursday and pronounced it "excellent." To start, Marquis was instructed to throw 40 consecutive sinkers, the pitch with which he has been most successful. He then went out Saturday and threw a two-hitter at Washington.
--RHP Chris Carpenter was not at his absolute best Wednesday, but he was in command enough to post his major league high 18th victory in an 8-3 dissection of the Pirates, a team he has beaten five times in six career decisions. Carpenter (18-4) has won 10 straight decisions. He was wild -- for him. He walked two and fanned four, giving him season totals of 178 strikeouts and 41 walks. Pitching coach Dave Duncan said, "This was probably one of his most difficult games of the year. He really struggled early on. He said he really had no clue where the ball was going. It didn't feel good coming out of his hand and his rhythm was not good. It wasn't 'til like the fourth inning that he had a little better feel for what he was doing."
--The silliness and finger-pointing that has marked the Cardinals-Pittsburgh rivalry over the last two seasons boiled over a couple of hours before Wednesday night's game when Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan got into it with Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon and hitting coach Gerald Perry behind the batting cage.
By several accounts, including some Fox television footage, Perry landed a punch to Duncan's jaw.
The ignition for the latest disagreement between the teams came Tuesday night when Cardinals manager Tony La Russa took exception with not only OF So Taguchi being hit in the left hand on a pitch by RHP Ryan Vogelsong in the ninth inning, with the Pirates leading, 10-0, but more so with former Cardinal RHP Rick White throwing an inside pitch to Cardinals 2B Hector Luna a couple of innings prior.
La Russa thought the pitch was "suspicious" and surmised White was responding to Luna's having upended Pirates 2B Jose Castillo on a double-play attempt on Monday. Castillo is out for the season.
Then on Wednesday, Duncan reportedly questioned White in center field about the pitch to Luna.
McClendon, upon hearing of this conversation, jawed at Duncan, the Cardinals' pitching coach jawed back and in the ensuing pushing and shoving, Duncan was clipped in the jaw by Perry
Last year, the Cardinals and Pirates had two incidents. The first came in early June when La Russa challenged Pirates C Jason Kendall after a couple of Pirates pitchers had thrown high and inside and McClendon had taken exception to that. McClendon marched virtually all the way to the Cardinals' dugout on the first-base side to confront La Russa then.
But McClendon got even, if it can be called that, by calling the umpires' attention to what former Pirates RHP Julian Tavarez might have had on his hat while he was pitching for the Cardinals in an August doubleheader in St. Louis. Tavarez wound up serving an eight-game suspension, down from 10, when the umpires ruled that the substance looked a lot like pine tar.
--The Cardinals made their first regular-season visit to Washington over the weekend. La Russa, as a young player with the Athletics when they played the Washington Senators, remembered warming up pitchers in the left-field bullpen in RFK Stadium.
"When (6-foot-7, 270-pound) Frank Howard was playing left field (for the Senators), you couldn't see anything," said La Russa. "He covered left from second base to third base."
BY THE NUMBERS: .537 -- Manager Tony La Russa's career winning percentage when he scored his 2,195th victory, third on the all-time list.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's a true horse. We're going to ride him as long as we can." -- Manager Tony La Russa on 18-game winner Chris Carpenter.
SEPTEMBER CALL UPS: Look for the Cardinals to call up their Top Prospect Anthony Reyes later this week. Other potential pitchers who could get the call include another top prospect Adam Wainwright and Carmen Cali. Reyes is expected to make a couple of spot starts in September as Cardinals' Manager Tony LaRussa gets his rotation set and the match ups set up for the post season.
JIM EDMONDS: left the game Sunday after a collision at home plate while scoring on a double steal in the sixth inning. He banged his right knee against one of C Gary Bennett's shin guards. The Cardinals expect the outfielder to be ready to play Monday at Florida against the Marlins but most likely he'll be given the day off.
JASON MARQUIS: there has been some rumors and speculation that the Cardinals might move Jason Marquis before Wednesday in an effort to add a bat to the Cardinals struggling and injured lineup. Wednesday is the deadline for teams to set their postseason rosters. It's highly unlikely Marquis will be traded this week.
1. LHP Mark Mulder
2. RHP Chris Carpenter
3. RHP Jason Marquis
4. RHP Jeff Suppan
5. RHP Matt Morris
RHP Jason Isringhausen (closer)
LHP Ray King
RHP Julian Tavarez
RHP Al Reyes
RHP Brad Thompson
RHP Cal Eldred
LHP Randy Flores
1. SS David Eckstein
2. RF Larry Walker
3. 1B Albert Pujols
4. CF Jim Edmonds
5. 2B Mark Grudzielanek
6. 3B Abraham Nunez
7. LF John Rodriguez
8. C Yadier Molina
C Einar Diaz
INF Hector Luna
3B Scott Seabol
INF/OF John Mabry
OF So Taguchi
3B Scott Rolen, inflamed rotator cuff, out for season.
LF Reggie Sanders, hairline fracture in left tibia, 15-day DL expected to return by mid-September