Facing their biggest deficit in the N.L. Central since 2008, the Cardinals
turned to their ace Saturday night to end a five-game losing streak and help
stop the sinking ship.
Veteran Chris Carpenter was more than up to the task, covering for a struggling offense by allowing just one run in 7 1/3 strong innings to lead the Cardinals to a 4-1 win over the San Francisco Giants at Busch Stadium.
The win ended a five-game losing streak for the Cardinals and moved them within four games of the division leading Cincinnati Reds, who were playing later Saturday night in
Carpenter was his dominant self Saturday, allowing just five hits and striking out four to improve to 14-4 on the season. The former Cy Young Award winner didn't allow more than one base runner in any inning.
"This was really a special night considering the losing streak and the quality of the competition," said manager Tony La Russa. "To rise up and perform like that, that's vintage ‘Carp'. …He really gave us the lift we needed to play tomorrow as the rubber game."
In the first 11 games following the trade that sent outfielder Ryan Ludwick to the Padres in exchange for pitcher Jake Westbrook from the Indians, the Cardinals averaged 6.7 runs per game, hit .316 and had a .366 on-base percentage. Most importantly, they went 8-3 during the stretch.
But a five-game losing streak followed in which the offense averaged just 3.2 runs per game and scored three or fewer runs in four of the five games.
Deadlocked in a scoreless tie featuring the fifth matchup this season between Cy Young Award winners, the Cardinals finally got to Giants ace Tim Lincecum in the fourth when Randy Winn connected for a solo home run to right field. The run ended a streak of 47 innings in which the Cardinals hadn't held a lead, all during the five-game skid.
"I think it was huge to get us on the board first," La Russa said. "We were just trying to mark every time we could against him. He's got so many weapons. We just did a good job of grinding out at-bats and we broke through a couple of times."
They added two more runs in the fifth on an RBI triple by newcomer Pedro Feliz and a run-scoring bloop double by Brendan Ryan. A leadoff single by Albert Pujols in the sixth led to another run after the slugger stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher Buster Posey. A single by Jon Jay scored him from third to make it 4-0.
It was the first time the Cardinals scored in three straight innings since scoring in five consecutive frames against the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 31.
"For Randy to jumpstart us like that was huge," said Ryan. "I don't think we've had a lead for a handful of games. I don't want to do the math, but that's a long time. We'd like for the other team to play catch-up once in a while. It hadn't been that way and it was only a solo blast, but it was nice to get a lead finally."
Feliz had an RBI since in the eighth to make it 5-1. Traded from the Astros on Thursday, Feliz has two hits in each of his first two games with the Cardinals after hitting just .221 with
Skip Schumaker was the lone starting position player without a hit as the Cardinals followed a 13-hit attack Friday with eight hits and five runs on Saturday night.
Carpenter was lifted after giving up a one-out single to Posey in the eighth. The right-hander, who left to a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 44,477, watched from the dugout as Trever Miller and Kyle McClellan both allowed hits to bring in Posey for the first Giants run.
Even though he was charged with the run, Carpenter lowered his ERA from 2.95 to 2.88. More importantly, he provided the Cardinals with exactly what they needed.
After falling behind and never recovering in each of their past four games, Carpenter took measures into his own hands Saturday to make sure the same thing didn't happen again.
"It's about winning ballgames right now," Carpenter said. "We really need to win some games, so I went out there and did the best I could to give the team a chance to win again. Fortunately this time we were able to get some runs and were able to win a ballgame.
"I think we're at a stage where we know it's important to win. We know that every game, not that they aren't important in April, but we have to come out and win ballgames. That being said, we're not going to come out and press. We're going to come out and try to play our game and do the things we know it takes to win ballgames and continue to play as hard as we can for nine innings and see what happens."
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