MLB Insiders - Ace in the Hole

After the Cardinals had lost Game 3 of the National League Division Series, 3-1, to the San Diego Padres on Saturday, manager Tony La Russa nominated ace right-hander Chris Carpenter to pitch Sunday's fourth game even though it meant that Carpenter could not start the first game of the next round if they get that far.

On the other hand, if he didn't use Carpenter and saved him for a possible fifth game, the Padres could gain some momentum in this series, which would return to San Diego on Monday. La Russa doesn't want to go back to San Diego and really didn't want to have to play Sunday,

"With Chris, we're going to give it our best shot," he said. "It's a game we'd hope not to have to play, but you try to wrap it up as soon as you can. They've got to win."

Carpenter beat San Diego easily, 5-1, in the first game, getting 2 2/3 innings of spotless relief.

The Cardinals' bullpen, composed mostly of youngsters now that closer Jason Isringhausen is on the disabled list, has pitched 11 scoreless innings in the series, allowing only seven hits and striking out 13.

But the Cardinals, after a strong first game, haven't hit. There is concern mostly about third baseman Scott Rolen, who is 1-for-11 and fanned in a key first-inning spot Saturday after center fielder Jim Edmonds was walked intentionally to get to him.

REPLAY: Right-hander Jeff Suppan, the Cardinals' best starter in the second half of the season, was cuffed for six hits and three runs in 4 1/3 innings Saturday, and the Cardinals failed to close out their National League Division Series with the San Diego Padres, falling 3-1.

The only Cardinals run came on a pinch homer by So Taguchi in the eighth inning. It was Taguchi's first at-bat of the series.

--The Cardinals committed their first error of the series when LF Chris Duncan dropped a first-inning liner. Duncan also missed another liner that was called a hit.

--The Cardinals' loss was their first in nine Division Series games with San Diego covering 1996, 2005 and this year.

--While the Padres were going 1-for-15 with men in scoring position, the Cardinals had only four chances, going hitless in all four.

--The Cardinals failed to sweep their fifth Division Series in seven tries under manager Tony La Russa, whose Division Series record still is 19-5.

--Every Cardinals player but RHP Jason Marquis has appeared in the series.

BY THE NUMBERS: 4 -- Runners left on base by 1B Albert Pujols in Game 3 after he went 5-for-8 in the first two games of the Division Series.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't think he's difficult to hit. I saw the ball good, but I chased some bad pitches, and when you chase bad pitches you actually make the guy difficult." -- 1B Albert Pujols on Padres starter (and Game 3 winner) Chris Young.

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