Carpenter Off His Game

St. Louis Cardinals staff ace and the reigning Cy Young Award winner, Chris Carpenter was tagged for five runs in five innings by the Mets in Game 2 on Friday night.

Carpenter gave up a three-run homer to Carlos Delgado in the first, one more run in the second and then a solo shot to Delgado in the fifth. Fortunately for him, the Cardinals managed to score nine runs Friday night to even the National League Championship Series to one game a piece as the playoffs move to St. Louis.

Carpenter finished 2nd in the N.L. in ERA this season at 3.09, and was tied-7th in the league with 15 wins, but has looked anything like a Cy Young Award contender in his past two starts for St. Louis, in spite of the Cardinals winning all three of his postseason starts.

Carpenter earned the win in both Game 1 & Game 4 of NLDS against the Padres, allowing just three runs in his 13.1 IP, but didn't look sharp in Game 4, having trouble getting out of the first inning in each start. Sunday, Carpenter gave up two runs to the Padres before finding his form.

Chris struggled for five innings Friday, mostly with his curve ball, allowing five runs in five innings on six hits and four walks. He also hit a batter before the bullpen came to the rescue.

"Obviously it wasn't the stuff that I was looking for," Carpenter said. "I wasn't locating very well with anything all night.

"My fastball wasn't locating very well, my curveball wasn't very good. But hopefully I get another opportunity."

The St. Louis relief corps was stellar during the NLDS against San Diego, pitching 13.1 scoreless innings and allowing just nine hits (.191, 9-47) while fanning 16 batters. They continued the scoreless streak Thursday night with 2.1 scoreless innings, allowing two hits.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa used five members of his bullpen Friday night with Josh Kinney picking up the win and Josh Hancock giving up the first run charged against the bullpen during the playoffs.

Something to watch for during the NLCS is how much the Cardinals will have to depend on the bullpen in Games 3,4 & 5 with Jeff Suppan, Anthony Reyes and Jeff Weaver starting in those games.

If the bullpen is called on early especially in game four for Reyes, then there may not be enough arms available to pitch three or four innings in relief for Carpenter if he falters again.

Carpenter is scheduled to pitch again in Game 6 (if necessary) of the NLCS and the Cardinals will need him to return to form and go deep into the game, if they hope to hang another World Championship banner in the new Busch Stadium.

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