Asked about a compelling regular-season matchup, such as one against 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee, he emphasizes that he takes it the same as any other game. Asked about a postseason game, he says the same. It's one of the keys to Carpenter's success, that he stays obsessively focused on making this pitch, getting this out, and not taking the external circumstances into consideration.
So the same goes for his final start before the playoffs. In practicality, it's his last chance to get everything squared away before he starts Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Oct. 7. In Carpenter's mind, it's nothing of the sort. It's his next start, nothing more, nothing less.
"Thirty starts into the year, there's no fine-tuning," Carpenter said on Saturday. "You continue to do what you're doing and try to be successful, and you can do it."
In his most recent start, on Friday night against Colorado, he wasn't at his best. His stuff has been sharper, for sure. But without a perfectly-placed bloop double in the first inning, he likely wouldn't have allowed a single run. The Cardinals lost, 2-1, but Carpenter did all he could to help contribute to a win.
So it's not as though he has a great deal of improving to do before he pitches in October. He dismisses a suggestion that the game might be something like the last start of Spring Training. Never mind that the Cardinals have clinched the National League Central. Carpenter will prepare himself like always, and compete like always.
"It's just continuing to get it done every night until it's over, whenever that may be," he said. "I'm going to continue to go out and do my normal routine and work hard and get prepared to go pitch on Thursday. Do my normal thing. There's no backing off, or turning it on any more. ... I'm going to go out there and try to do the best I can to give my team a chance to win, just like I always do."
And afterward, he'll give the same interview he always does. He'll be happy to talk about this pitch or that at-bat. He'll break down his approach, and discuss the big moments in the game. But ask him about the circumstances, and the answer will likely be the same. Another game, just like the other games.
If it works, why mess with it?
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less