From 2004-06, the Cardinals' best 1-2 punch was Albert Pujols at bat and Chris Carpenter on the mound. While Pujols was doing his customary .300-30-300 thing (batting average, home runs, RBIs), Carpenter was going 51-18 for a team that won three consecutive division championships, two league championships and one World Series.
Carpenter, in essence, missed the next two seasons with arm and shoulder problems, but he's back. Pujols never has gone away, and the combination is a deadly one.
On Wednesday, Pujols hit his 10th homer in a game Carpenter pitched since the latter came off the disabled list in late May.
"He's got 38, so he's hit a few for other guys, too," Carpenter said.
But the bottom line is that Carpenter is 12-3 with seven straight wins, and the Cardinals have their largest divisional lead since May 2, four games.
Throwing first-pitch strikes to 22 of 29 hitters, Carpenter fanned 10 for the second time this season and walked none. He hasn't walked more than two in any of his 19 starts, and he's had one or none in 13 of them.
Carpenter said a nerve problem in his shoulder that he experienced last season has been strengthened with a different exercise program. Manager Tony La Russa said, "You can tell from the velocity that the ball was just jumping out of his hand.
"The ball was exploding down, exploding up."
Carpenter was touched up in only
one inning, giving up four consecutive hits, good for both
"That one inning I got away from my plan and started throwing without thinking," Carpenter said.
Cardinals 5, Reds
• 1B Albert Pujols, besides hitting a solo homer in the third inning, knocked Cincinnati RHP Homer Bailey out of Wednesday's game with a smash off Bailey's left foot in the first inning. After a flustered Bailey recovered the ball and fired it into right field, two runners scored and Pujols was at third.
"That poor Bailey got nailed," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "I'm surprised he could throw the ball to first base."
• SS Brendan Ryan became the 12th player to bat second this season for the Cardinals. (1B Albert Pujols has batted third in every game he's started). Ryan had two hits and figured in two scoring innings. Manager Tony La Russa said he would keep either Ryan or SS Julio Lugo in the No. 2 spot for a while, although he said he ultimately preferred "damage" hitters in that spot.
• The Cardinals lost Tuesday for the first time in RHP Mitchell Boggs' six starts. Manager Tony La Russa said Boggs didn't have much other than a fastball early in the game, although he gave credit to the rookie for righting himself after the first two innings, when he gave up four runs. "I've got to be better, no doubt about it," Boggs said. "I felt good later in the game, but I've got to feel good from the start."
By The Numbers: 48-24—The Cardinals' record at
Quote To Note: "He's a complete player and
person."—Manager Tony La Russa on MVP candidate Albert Pujols, who also tended
to a fan who fell over the rail chasing a foul ball at
• 3B Troy Glaus, taking some limited infield drills, said he expected to begin another rehabilitation assignment Saturday with Class AAA Memphis. Glaus said his right shoulder, on which he had surgery in January, was not bothering him for the first time in some time when he's tried to throw. Manager Tony La Russa, however, is hopeful only that Glaus can swing the bat in the last month of the season.
• LF Matt Holliday had his third
three-hit game to go with two four-hit games for