ST. LOUIS -- It's difficult for a team to rise to the top of its division without solid starting pitching and powerful bats.
For the Cardinals, the same was true in their crucial series wins over second-place Reds and Cubs. And for their efforts in those two series, Chris Carpenter and Chris Duncan were rewarded with National League co-Player of the Week honors.
Carpenter, the defending National League Cy Young Award winner, showed why this week, going 2-0 with a 1.06 ERA in efforts against the Reds and the Cubs.
He tossed a vital shutout against Cincinnati as the Cards emphatically reversed the momentum of the charging Reds. He allowed just four hits and struck out six, throwing 71 of his 107 pitches for strikes.
"Not surprising, the guy is one of the best pitchers in all of baseball," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "I can't remember us hitting but a couple of balls hard tonight. I don't know if he was unhittable tonight but he was close to it."
Even though he was charged with protecting a 1 1/2-game lead in the NL Central, that never entered the right-hander's head.
"I don't concern myself with the importance of the game," said Carpenter, who didn't give up an extra-base hit that night. "I don't concern myself with the team that I'm facing. I know I have to have a plan and go out and execute it, and I was able to do it."
Carpenter walked nobody -- a feat he duplicated in the start against Chicago on Sunday. In that game, he gave St. Louis a series win over the rival Cubs by allowing two runs on seven hits.
While Carpenter came into the season with hardware and the expectations that go with it, his co-Player of the Week entered with just two Major League hits.
Duncan, a 25-year-old rookie, did his part to give the Redbirds some breathing room in the NL Central race.
Duncan led the league with his four homers and 14 hits for the week, while his .583 batting average and 1.125 slugging percentage were the best in the Majors.
He homered in three consecutive games from Aug. 18-20, and his four homers brought his season total to 14 in just 168 at-bats.
Zachary Levine is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.