ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Cardinals return to Busch Stadium for Game 3 of the 2006 World Series. That's a good place for Chris Carpenter to return to the mound for his first World Series start. He will get the ball for the Cardinals on Tuesday, when the Series resumes tied at one game apiece. Carpenter was 8-4 at Busch Stadium this season, with a 1.81 ERA that was the lowest in the Major Leagues for a pitcher at his home ballpark. He was 7-4 with a 4.70 ERA on the road.
"I had a couple of starts on the road that skewed the numbers," Carpenter said after the Cards' workout at Busch Stadium on Monday. "Six runs in Detroit, six or seven runs in Kansas City. I had a few starts where I really didn't pitch this well. And I feel comfortable at home and on the road. "Obviously, pitching at home in front of your fans in your home stadium, it's nice, it's fun, it's a nice place to pitch. I like pitching in this park and I'm looking forward to tomorrow night." The start against Detroit was not good. Pitching at Comerica Park on June 23, Carpenter allowed seven runs on nine hits in seven innings. Curtis Granderson and Brandon Inge both hit home runs off of him and Carpenter was the losing pitcher in a 10-6 loss. He avoids Comerica Park for his first start in the World Series but would likely be on the mound if the two teams are needed there for a Game 7. He is 2-1 with a 5.87 ERA in four career starts against the Tigers at Comerica Park. More important is what he has done for the Cardinals lately -- he is 2-1 with a 3.70 ERA in four postseason starts so far this year. Overall, he is 4-1 with a 2.98 ERA in the playoffs over the past two seasons, and the Cardinals are 6-1 in his seven starts. "Obviously, he's one of the best pitchers in baseball," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He's a Cy Young [Award] winner. I have the utmost respect for him. I spent a few seasons with him in Spring Training, [watching] him go about his business. "Chris Carpenter is at the head of the class. He's an outstanding young man. He's a tremendous pitcher and tremendous competitor, and obviously we'll have our hands full." But this is his first World Series start. He won 15 games for the Cardinals in 2004 but was unable to pitch in Game 3 because of a nerve problem in his right arm. He had at least four throwing sessions in the bullpen during the 2004 playoffs in the hopes of being able to contribute, but the Cardinals decided not to risk his long-term health. St. Louis was swept in four games by the Boston Red Sox. "The decision was not up to me, it was up to [manager Tony La Russa] and the coaching staff," Carpenter said. "I wanted to pitch, but I think in the long run it worked out to be smart. I was out there throwing on the side, not competing in the World Series. I hadn't thrown in a month and a half or whatever. "It was disappointing, but it was a smart decision, the right decision, I believe. They were looking out for my career, not just for one series or one game or whatever it was." It was part of a long road toward getting to this point, from being the Toronto Blue Jays No. 1 draft pick in 1993, to being let go at the end of the 2002 season because of a shoulder injury, to making an amazing comeback over the past three seasons with the Cardinals. Any team could have had him as a free agent in the winter of 2002-03. But the Cardinals landed him, and he has been a huge part of their success over the past three seasons, a two-time All-Star and legitimate No. 1 starter at the head of their rotation. Now he pitches in the World Series. "You know, it's a great feeling, childhood dream," Carpenter said. "I had an opportunity to come here in '04, but unable to pitch because of my injury. But to get back a second time and have a chance to go out and compete and pitch in the game, it's going to be a lot of fun. "I'm looking forward to it and it's going to be a good time."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.