HOUSTON -- If St. Louis ace Chris Carpenter gets the ball to sink, he doesn't have to think.
Carpenter enters Monday night's Game 5 of the National League Championship series at Minute Maid Park with the confidence of not only a 21-5 regular season, but two postseason victories -- including a dominating eight innings in the Cards' 5-3 Game 1 victory in which he forced 17 ground-ball outs.
"When I come out to a game, this is what I've got and this is what I'm going to do," Carpenter said. "I think that everybody knows that. The question is execution."
Carpenter has no cause to question anything. He was 4-0 with a 1.85 ERA against the Astros in five starts during the regular season, with his best work against them coming at Minute Maid (3-0, 1.13 ERA). In four total career starts at Minute Maid, he's 4-0 with an 0.84 ERA.
With a postseason that also includes six scoreless innings against San Diego in his Game 1 win in the NL Division Series, Carpenter no longer faces questions about his less-than-scintillating September (2-1, 5.73 ERA).
"I think physically he feels good and I think the pressure of the postseason has got his concentration back to where it was a great, great majority of the season," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said.
Carpenter can even ignore a potentially negative message his brain received, courtesy of his eyes, on Saturday.
Fellow starter Matt Morris threw what normally would be considered a good pitch -- an outside sinker to left-handed hitting Mike Lamb, who hit the ball softly. But that was all it took to lift the ball into the seats in quirky Minute Maid Park.
"You know, I've given up a couple home runs here over that left-field wall," he said. "It happens."
Actually, it hasn't happened as often as Carpenter thinks. Lance Berkman went deep against him at Minute Maid on Sept. 3, but Carpenter threw a complete game in St. Louis' 4-2 victory.
"I actually enjoy pitching here," Carpenter said. "I think it's a nice place. I like the park. The mound is good. I mean, everything about it is good.
"If you start concerning yourself with that short wall in left, the next thing you know, you go away from your game and they have still got to hit it out there. So I don't pitch any different here than I have anywhere else."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.