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Results vary for NLDS aces on short rest

Results vary for NLDS aces on short rest

Results vary for NLDS aces on short rest
The urgency of Major League Baseball's short postseason series sounded a siren call answered on Sunday by aces Zack Greinke and Chris Carpenter, and the short story continues on Monday in Detroit, with CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander.

Neither Milwaukee's Greinke nor St. Louis' Carpenter were experienced taking the mound on three days' rest, but both did so Sunday in the interest of improving their teams' Division Series prospects.

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Greinke did enough to set up a 9-4 win over Arizona, putting the Brewers up 2-games-to-0 and leaving them needing one win for their first Division Series title. Game 3 is Tuesday night at 9:30 p.m. ET in Phoenix.

Carpenter, who was co-owner of an obscure big league record for most consecutive starts without any on short rest, didn't fare as well in Citizens Bank Park, hoping to draw the Cardinals even with the Phillies. Struggling from his very first pitch, he logged only three innings before departing for a pinch-hitter amid a St. Louis fourth-inning rally that began the Cardinals' comeback from an early four-run deficit to a 5-4 victory.

Not even any of this will be reliable precedent for Monday's Game 3 of the American League Division Series between the Yankees and the Tigers: Sabathia and Verlander will face each other at Comerica Park on two days' rest on TBS at 8:30 ET. Of course, both had only a short stint in Friday night's Game 1 before the series opener was suspended by rain.

Greinke and Carpenter are both set up to start potential Game 5s on Friday on regular four days' rest -- if, as they say, those games become necessary.

Greinke was able to bequeath a tie game to his bullpen after five innings, but was hit often (eight hits) and hard: He gave up three home runs for the first time in 70 starts, as Paul Goldschmidt, Chris Young and Justin Upton went deep for all of Arizona's runs.

"It felt real good out there," said Greinke. "All my pitches were coming under pretty well and pretty sharp. I guess the fastball must have been a little flat."

Likewise, Carpenter felt no physical shortcomings, blaming his problems not on exhaustion but on execution -- or lack thereof.

"I really physically felt great," Carpenter said. "My shoulder, elbow, body -- everything felt good. But mechanically, I wasn't as sharp as I would have liked, and mentally, I wasn't as sharp as I would have liked. Mentally, I wasn't where I needed to be. I wasn't locating, and that was a lack of concentration."

Greinke was making his third career start -- out of 198 -- on three days' rest, but his second in a row. To set him up for an NLDS at Miller Park -- where the right-hander went 11-0 this season as the Brewers won all 15 of his starts -- he also started the regular-season finale on short rest.

In that one, Greinke held the Pirates to two runs on five hits over six innings.

Even with the game unresolved at the time, Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke was not willing to push Greinke. He lifted him after five innings and 74 pitches.

"It certainly wasn't his best game," Roenicke said, "but I thought he threw well. I thought he battled real well. I was happy with the way he threw."

Greinke had not allowed three homers in a start since Aug. 19, 2009, when a trio of White Sox took him deep. Yet it might be shortsighted to blame short rest for his mistreatment. The D-backs have always been hard on him, with a tally of six homers in 25 prior frames, and had already three-timed him during a 4 1/3-inning Interleague start in '05.

Now finishing up his first season in the NL following seven with the Kansas City Royals, Greinke has made at least four career starts against 19 different teams. Arizona is the only one of the teams he has never defeated, dropping both decisions in four starts against the D-backs.

Far more of an unknown was Carpenter's first sojourn into the land of short rest. This was the tall right-hander's 339th lifetime start, including 10 postseason turns, and the first one he made on three days' rest. Woody Williams had also made 338 starts without any on three days' rest before he retired after the 2007 season.

Nevertheless, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa had no misgivings about handing the ball to Carpenter, whose 8-0 closing-day shutout in Houston was responsible for the Redbirds being here in the first place.

"He is as good a pitcher as any starting pitcher in either league, especially good in the clutch when you need him," La Russa said. "He loves to compete. He's got a lot of weapons, so you've got this competitive heart and you've got his talent, and we feel good when he pitches. ... He's the whole ball of wax."

Unfortunately for Redbird Nation, Carpenter instead got waxed by the Phillies, who started with a three-run first. All season, in 34 starts, Carpenter had allowed 10 first-inning runs, never more than two.

The absence of his usual command appeared obvious. Of the seven batters Carpenter faced in that first, he delivered a first-pitch strike to only one -- Shane Victorino, who connected and flied out to center.

Victorino's fly ball was Carpenter's first out, on his 23rd pitch. He wound up making a total of 64, only 34 of them for strikes. He faced a total of 16 batters, starting off five of them with strikes.

La Russa felt his pitcher's disadvantage wasn't lack of proper rest.

"His problem was, he was throwing to a different strike zone," said La Russa, bringing into question home-plate umpire Jerry Meals' calls of the pitches made by Carpenter and by his mound opponent, Cliff Lee.

When looking back at the risky assignment, pitcher and manager were both buoyed by the Cardinals' stirring comeback victory.

"We've been around a long time, we know the risks," said La Russa, including St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan. "But you know, you have to prove to your team that you're going to take your best shot. You can't leave here with the caliber of Lee out there and the club not put Carp out there."

"I did the best I could," Carpenter said. "Did I pitch great? No. But we won, and that's all that matters."

Tom Singer is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow @Tom_Singer on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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