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Down in NLDS, Cardinals turn to Carpenter

Down in NLDS, Cardinals turn to Carpenter

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Down in NLDS, Cardinals turn to Carpenter
PHILADELPHIA -- Dropping Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Saturday, especially after racing out to an early lead, has put the Cardinals in a precarious position heading to Game 2 on Sunday at Citizens Bank Park.

But St. Louis manager Tony La Russa likes his chances based on the pitcher that he's selected to start the game, Chris Carpenter.

"We have confidence in everybody else, but Chris is our horse," La Russa said prior to the Phillies' 11-6 comeback victory over the Redbirds in Game 1.

So how badly do the Cards need a big performance by Carpenter, who is pitching on three days' rest after tossing a shutout against the Astros on Wednesday?

Tale of the Tape: Game 2
2011 Regular Season
Overall: 34 GS, 11-9, 3.45 ERA, 55 BB, 191 K.
Overall: 32 GS, 17-8, 2.40 ERA, 42 BB, 238 K.
Key stat: Opponents hitting .158 on pitch 101+.
Key stat: MLB-best six shutouts.
At Citizens Bank Park
2011: 1 GS, 1-0, 0.00. Career: 4 GS, 4-0, 4.50.
2011: 18 GS, 11-3, 1.94. Career: 23 GS, 14-5, 2.06.
Against this opponent
2011: 2 GS, 2-0, 0.60. Career: 11 GS, 7-2, 4.14.
2011: 2 GS, 1-1, 1.76. Career: 4 GS, 3-1, 1.48.
Loves to face.: Raul Ibanez, 1-for-11. Hates to face: Chase Utley, 7-for-15.
Loves to face: Albert Pujols, 1-for-8. Hates to face: Lance Berkman, 5-for-13.
Game breakdown
Why he'll win: Has never lost in Philadelphia.
Why he'll win: 4-0, 1.56 ERA for Phillies in postseason.
Pitcher beware: Has never pitched on three days' rest.
Pitcher beware: 0-2, 6.94 ERA in past two postseason starts (w/ TEX).
Bottom line: Forgotten ace.
Bottom line: Signed with Philly to win a World Series.

Consider that under the current NLDS format, the team that wins Game 1 has gone on to the NL Championship Series 29 of 32 times.

The Cardinals raced out to a 3-0 lead on Saturday after Lance Berkman's three-run home run off Roy Halladay in the first inning before the Phillies stormed back with a five-run sixth.

In Carpenter, who hasn't won a playoff game since Game 3 of the 2006 World Series, St. Louis has a pitcher who has had plenty of success against Philadelphia.

Since 2005, Carpenter is 5-0 with a 2.38 ERA. Better still, he's 3-0 with a 0.78 ERA in three starts against the Phils since the beginning of the 2010 season.

Carpenter won both of his starts against the Phillies this season, allowing one run over 15 innings. On Sept. 18, he tossed eight scoreless innings in a victory at Citizens Bank Park, getting 11 ground-ball outs along the way.

"If you don't get the ball down in the strike zone at any ballpark, these guys are going to get you," Carpenter said. "If you don't control the counts, these guys are going to get you no matter who you're facing and what you're doing."

And forget that Carpenter will be pitching at hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park, because he already has.

Carpenter said that it doesn't matter if you're playing in Philadelphia, St. Louis or even on the moon, his success Sunday is going to come down to making pitches against a very dangerous lineup.

"You're facing a team that obviously, from top to bottom, is tough at-bats against you," Carpenter said. "That's why they've won 100-something games and have been on top of their division for a while.

"These guys grind out professional at-bats. It's a great competition for a pitcher to go against a lineup like this, because if you make any mistakes, they're going to make you pay for it. My goal is to go out and execute pitches, and if I do that ... I'm going to be successful."

The Cards need Carpenter to do that in Game 2, or they'll run the risk of falling far behind in this best-of-five series.

It won't be easy taming the Phillies' lineup that includes plenty of dangerous hitters aside from Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez, who accounted for all of the offense in that sixth inning on home runs off Kyle Lohse.

That said, no one was panicking inside the visitors' clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park.

"That's why it's three out of five. It's not a one-game series," said Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols. "We just need to bounce back tomorrow and hopefully tie the series and go home.

"I think if we can get a game right here, the home-field advantage and all that is going to be our way. We've got two in our place. We need to start playing our game and be ready to play, and hopefully we can even up the series."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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