A stretch run, that is.
Monday night's game was Carpenter's "shortest" outing (7 2/3 IP) since the game in San Diego (when he went "only" seven innings).
Still, over his last six starts, Carpenter has pitched 49 2/3 innings (average of just under 8 1/3 innings per start). Roger Clemens, FWIW, has pitched 42 1/3 innings, just over seven innings per start, in his last six starts.
The contrast is even more stark if you look at the 14 starts each man has made since Carpenter last loss on June 4 to the Red Sox.
Since that time, Chris Carpenter has gone 11-0 and the Cards are 14-0. And Carpenter has thrown 116 1/3 innings, an average of just under 8 1/3 innings per start. (Lest we think we're overpitching him, though, he's only made 1475 pitches in those 14 starts, an average of 105.4 pitches per start, with a max of 114.)
Roger Clemens, by comparison, has gone 7-3 and the Astros are 8-6 (there's where those 1-0 losses come in). Clemens has thrown 96 1/3 innings, an average of 6.88 innings per start, and 1427 pitches, an average of 101.9 pitches per start.
In other words, Clemens is throwing nearly as many pitches per start – just 3.5 fewer pitches – but is throwing nearly 1.5 fewer innings. If Clemens were going 8 1/3 innings per start, he'd be averaging 123 pitches per start to Carpenter's actual average of 105.
11-0 1.39 ERA; 116.1 IP, 68 H, 19 R, 18 ER, 100 K, 16 BB; 0.72 WHIP.
7-3, 1.40 ERA; 96.1 IP, 63 H, 19 R, 15 ER, 80 K, 24 BB; 0.90 WHIP.
Admittedly, Carpenter is getting better run support – the Cards are averaging 5.5 runs per game for Chris Carpenter over his last 14 starts. Houston is averaging 4.29 runs per start for Roger Clemens over his last 14 starts; his problem isn't lack of run support as much as it is lack of consistent run support in that the Astros have been shut out four times in those 14 games (once by the Cards in July; three times in August) but have also had games in which they've scored seven, nine, 11, and even 14 runs. Take out the four shutouts and Clemens – in the other ten starts – is getting six runs per game in support but has still only won seven of those ten starts. The popular view of "the Astros don't score runs for Roger" really is a misperception caused by the number of times they've been shutout; there've been plenty of games where the Astros have scored runs for Clemens but he still didn't get the win – because he doesn't go as deep into the games as Carpenter.
(By the way, has anybody noticed that the last time that Chris Carpenter lost, the Cardinals were shut out? It was a 4-0 loss to David Wells; in fact, the Cards have only scored ten runs in Carpenter's four losses; 22 runs in his four no-decisions. Shouldn't we thus be complaining that if the Cardinals had given Carpenter proper run support in those games, he might be 23-0 instead of a "mere" 19-4?)
Bottom line – while Roger Clemens still has a fairly sizeable lead in the ERA race for the full season, it's how Carpenter has done down the stretch that puts him over the top, as he's won four more games, pitched 20 more innings, struck out 20 more batters, walked eight fewer batters, and allowed three fewer baserunners than Roger Clemens.
And – knowing how short the sportswriters' memories can often be - that may just be enough to make Chris Carpenter only the second Cardinal hurler ever to win a Cy Young Award.