Carpenter started slow and never got right, and Pujols was simply taken out of the game's biggest moments as the Cardinals lost to the Dodgers, 5-3, at Dodger Stadium in the opener of their National League Division Series. Both teams produced baserunner after baserunner in a game that was three hours and 54 minutes in duration -- a Division Series record -- and stranding 30 on base, also a DS record.
But the Dodgers had far more success in turning those runners into runs.
Carpenter was uncharacteristically wild within the strike zone over his five-inning grind of a start. Even more unusual was that he couldn't get sorted out as the game went on. He was scored upon in three of his five innings, issued four walks and needed 105 pitches to get 15 outs. The Cardinals lost for the second time in eight career postseason starts by the 2005 Cy Young winner.
"They didn't miss anything in the middle of the plate, and when I wasn't in the middle of the plate, I wasn't on the corners," Carpenter said. "I didn't make very many good pitches all night."
As for Pujols, the Dodgers simply decided not to pitch to him when he could do damage. And when they did pitch to him, they got him out. With runners on second and third and no outs in the first inning, and again with a runner on second and two outs in the fourth, Los Angeles manager Joe Torre put up the four fingers to walk the two-time NL Most Valuable Player. Pujols grounded out in the three at-bats where the Dodgers did pitch to him.
"Albert is very special," said Torre. "I mean, you see him every single day. He just scares me. I ... He's lethal and he's so calm about it, too."
The Dodgers were instead content to take their chances against Matt Holliday, and Holliday did not make them pay. He struck out looking with the bases loaded in the first and was hit by a pitch with two on in the fourth. That was a particularly galling inning for the Cardinals, as the next batter, Ryan Ludwick, drilled a line drive that was barely foul with the bases loaded -- then went on to ground out.
Cardinals' Division Series history under Tony La Russa
|Year||Opponent||First-game result||Series result|
|1996||Padres||Won, 3-1||Won, 3-0|
|2000||Braves||Won, 7-5||Won, 3-0|
|2001||D-backs||Lost, 1-0||Lost, 3-2|
|2002||D-backs||Won, 12-2||Won, 3-0|
|2004||Dodgers||Won, 8-3||Won, 3-1*|
|2005||Padres||Won, 8-5||Won, 3-0|
|2006||Padres||Won, 5-1||Won, 3-1**|
|2009||Dodgers||Lost, 5-3||Down 1-0|
So even though the Redbirds amassed 17 baserunners against Randy Wolf and the Dodgers bullpen, they ended up on the losing side of the series opener. They'll try to make more hay against another tough left-hander, Clayton Kershaw, on Thursday afternoon in Game 2.
The Cardinals scared Wolf in the first but couldn't do much about it. A walk, a double and the first intentional walk to Pujols loaded the bases before Los Angeles had an out. But Holliday struck out looking before Ludwick's bloop single made it 1-0, and Yadier Molina hit into a double play to end the threat. A pattern had been set.
"I don't know if you can say it's a turning point in the first inning -- eight to go," Ludwick said. "That's a lot of ballgame. Obviously it would have been nice to push some more across the board in the first, but we still had 24 outs. That's a lot of outs."
Still, within three pitches, the Dodgers had gotten the run back and more. Rafael Furcal jumped Carpenter's first pitch for a single, and Matt Kemp was all over offering No. 3, drilling it to center field for a two-run homer. Two more Dodgers singles didn't produce another run, but the Cardinals had a deficit they would never overcome.
"I just couldn't get the ball where I wanted it to go, and it's not a good time for that to happen," Carpenter said.
Los Angeles added on in the third inning, when a walk and a hit batter set the table. With runners on the corners and one out, Casey Blake hit a hot shot to the right side that Mark DeRosa corralled, but DeRosa's attempt to get the lead out at second base ended up with the ball sailing into right field and Andre Ethier scoring.
DeRosa had suffered some gashes to his right hand an inning earlier when he and Dodgers first baseman James Loney got tangled up as the Dodgers tried to double him off first base. But DeRosa said there was no connection between that and the bad throw. He also downplayed the severity of the injury to his fingers.
"I just had a terrible grip on it," he said. "I probably should have just eaten it instead of trying to make a play."
The score was 3-2 in the fifth inning when Carpenter's spot in the order came up with a runner on second and two outs. Manager Tony La Russa elected to leave his pitcher in to hit, and Carpenter struck out. He was touched for another run in the bottom half of the inning before he was removed.
Things didn't get any cleaner as the game went on. The fourth L.A. run scored on a sacrifice fly, following a bunt play where Molina had a chance to get the lead run at third base. But he bobbled the ball and was forced to take the out at first instead, leaving the sacrifice fly in place.
"I couldn't handle it," Molina said. "I tried to grab it, but I didn't have the ball."
Kyle McClellan hit Russell Martin with the bases loaded in the sixth to make it 5-2. The Cardinals chased Wolf after 3 2/3 innings, but that wasn't necessarily good news. The Dodgers bullpen proved airtight, going the final 5 1/3 frames with only a single run allowed.
It's the second time the Cardinals have lost the opener of a Division Series in eight trips under La Russa. They won all six series where they won the opener, and lost in five games the one time they dropped the opening game (2001 against Arizona). Overall, the Cardinals are 8-1 under La Russa in postseason series where they win Game 1 and 1-5 in series where they lose it.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.