Carpenter hadn't won a game in two seasons because of elbow and shoulder problems, but in the last two days both he and Pineiro have posted impressive victories. The Cardinals might have that strong five-man rotation they had envisioned.
After Carpenter one-hit Pittsburgh for seven innings Thursday, Pineiro got a hard-hitting Houston lineup to hit groundball after groundball Friday night, posting a 5-3 victory with 6 2/3 innings of two-run ball.
Last year, Pineiro, who never really overcame shoulder and groin issues, lost a dozen or so leads that often became losses for a beleaguered Cardinals bullpen. But Pineiro seems intent on not letting what happened last year happen again.
"Going into the sixth or seventh inning and having a two-run or three-run lead and not being able to hold it, it's tough for a pitcher and for the guys playing behind you who get you a nice lead and you kind of blow it," said Pineiro. He said talking to Carpenter helped, with Carpenter advising Pineiro he should take every inning late in the game as if it were the ninth inning.
"You've got to lock down and bear down," said Pineiro.
Cardinals 5, Houston 3: RF Ryan Ludwick extended his hitting streak to 15 games covering two seasons with his second homer and a run-scoring double. The Cardinals never trailed but it took them three relievers, with RHP Kyle McClellan nailing down his first save of the season and second overall by retiring the final two hitters.
"He's an outstanding baserunner," La Russa said. "Sometimes, he runs like he's invisible out there, but most of the time when he runs, he uses great judgment and he's got terrific aggressiveness and instincts. That was a big-league play. All-Star play. Hall of Fame play."
• With the Cardinals often starting at least two left-handed batting outfielders and a left-handed hitting second baseman, opposing teams will fire left-handers at them. Their win against Astros LHP Mike Hampton on Friday was their first out of three in games started by left-handers.
• RHP Chris Carpenter beat the Pirates for the ninth straight time Thursday. He is 10-1 with a 2.06 ERA against them, walking 84 and striking out 18, with hitters averaging only .187 against him.
• Albert Pujols set a record for Cardinals first basemen Wednesday with seven assists, the most by a National League first baseman in a nine-inning game in 38 years.
• The Cardinals' win on Tuesday ended a four-game losing streak against the Pirates. Last year, St. Louis beat Pittsburgh only seven times in 17 meetings.
• The Cardinals and Pirates met in a season opener for the 32nd time, 27 of them in St. Louis, but Monday marked was the first time the teams had opened the season together since 1983.
By The Numbers: 12—Players on the 2009 opening-day roster who were on the opening-night roster in 2008.
Quote To Note: "Maybe he's trying to do too much or something. I don't know. Whatever it is, he'd better try to get it changed."—Pitching coach Dave Duncan on the struggles of RHP Kyle McClellan.