A disappointing stretch has knocked the St. Louis Cardinals out of first place in the NL Central, but they appear to have a good chance at turning things around with a homestand against two of the NL’s worst teams.
They also seem to have the right man on the mound to open that homestand.
Chris Carpenter looks to win his 11th straight decision over the Pittsburgh Pirates when he takes the ball for the Cardinals on Friday night.
Carpenter (11-3, 3.09 ERA) has enjoyed success against Pittsburgh, posting a 1.23 ERA while winning all three of his starts against the Pirates at the new Busch. However, it hasn’t really mattered where the right-hander has faced them.
Carpenter is 11-1 with a 2.29 lifetime ERA versus Pittsburgh, his most victories over any opponent. Since suffering his lone loss to the Pirates on June 29, 2004, Carpenter is 10-0 with a 2.01 ERA in 12 starts - all Cardinals victories.
The three-time All-Star allowed two runs while striking out eight in seven innings against Pittsburgh on May 7, though he didn’t get a decision in the Cardinals’ 4-3 win.
Against the Cubs on Sunday, Carpenter gave up three runs and nine hits in seven innings of a 4-3, 11-inning victory.
Probable Pittsburgh starter Jeff Karstens (2-6, 4.72) had his best outing of the season against the Cardinals on May 8, allowing three hits in six innings of a 2-0 win. He hasn’t had much luck lately, though.
Karstens has lost his last three outings and has one victory in 10 starts since rejoining Pittsburgh’s rotation at the beginning of June following a stint in the bullpen. The right-hander gave up four runs in six innings of a 9-2 home defeat to San Diego on Saturday.
Feeble was about the only word that could be said about the Cardinals' attack against New York knuckleballer R.A. Dickey on Thursday. St. Louis had only one walk and three hits off Dickey until the ninth inning, when pinch hitter Colby Rasmus singled and Jon Jay walked.
At that point, Francisco Rodriguez entered the game for the third day in a row and easily disposed of Albert Pujols on a fly to center and put an end to Matt Holliday's 13-game hitting streak by freezing Holliday on a called third strike. It was the 10th shutout of the season for the Cardinals, nine of them on the road.
Blake Hawksworth was better than he had been lately as the Cardinals' starter. But Hawksworth surrendered a three-run homer on a changeup to New York rookie Ike Davis in the third inning. Hawksworth gave up just one other run in his six innings.
"He was all right," manager Tony La Russa said. "First-pitch changeup. Three-run homer. That was the difference."
Hawksworth had thrown mostly changeups to Davis in the first inning, retiring the Mets first baseman on a groundout, but he didn't second-guess the decision to go back to the pitch in the third.
"I'm sure he was looking for something out over the plate with men on base," Hawksworth said. "He's got kind of a long swing, but the changeup stayed in the middle and he crushed it. One mistake today.
"If I could have that pitch back, I'd love to. But I threw it with the right mind-set, and that's all I can do. Sometimes they make you pay for it."
The Cardinals are 22-30 on the road now.
"We're a little short," said La Russa, referring to some injuries. "We haven't gotten buried. We've survived. That's a good thing."
METS 4, CARDINALS 0: The Cardinals finished a six-game trip at 2-4 as nobody had more than one hit. The team was 0-for-5 with men in scoring position, with four of those failures by the Cardinals' meal tickets, 1B Albert Pujols and LF Matt Holliday. Only CF Jon Jay had an extra-base hit, a double in the first inning.
--RHP Jeff Suppan, who temporarily was bypassed in the rotation, was available in the bullpen as a reliever Thursday. But once RHP Blake Hawksworth got through six innings, Suppan wasn't needed. Suppan's next start is scheduled for Saturday.
--RHP Mike MacDougal, just brought up from Class AAA Memphis, was used for the second day in a row. MacDougal experienced control issues, hitting one batter and walking two more, but he escaped with a scoreless eighth inning.
--The Cardinals return home for a six-game homestand against NL Central bottom-feeders Pittsburgh and Houston. The Cardinals are 2-1 against the Pirates with 12 games remaining. They're 4-5 against Houston with six left.
--RHP Chris Carpenter will start Friday against the Pirates. Carpenter is 11-1 in his career against Pittsburgh.
--OF Jon Jay, who seems to have taken over the center field job, had a double and a walk and threw out a runner at the plate. "He looks like a player," manager Tony La Russa said of the rookie. "He does something every day."
--1B Albert Pujols, after a 3-for-7 night Wednesday, went hitless in four at-bats Thursday, although he hit one ball hard. Pujols is in a 4-for-31 (.129) slump.
BY THE NUMBERS: 15 -- Extra-base hits for rookie OF Jon Jay out of 36 hits in his first 93 big-league at-bats.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Everybody is looking for help. We're assuming we won't get any and we win with what we've got." -- Manager Tony La Russa, hoping a trade will be made but prepared for nothing to happen before July 31.
--RF Nick Stavinoha (right shoulder strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 12.
--RHP Adam Ottavino (right shoulder strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 4. He won't need surgery, but he is probably out for the year.
--3B David Freese (bone bruise on right ankle) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 28. He also broke his left big toe in mid-July, but he still expects to begin a rehab assignment in late July or early August.
--RHP Kyle Lohse (right forearm strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 23, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on June 5. He had surgery May 28 to alleviate muscle discomfort. Lohse began a rehab assignment with Class AAA Memphis on July 26, and he could return to the Cardinals in August.
--RHP Brad Penny (strained upper back) went on the 15-day disabled list May 22. He threw bullpen sessions June 28 and July 1 but had to cut short a bullpen session July 6 because of tightness in his triceps area. He underwent an MRI on July 7, which found nothing that hadn't been diagnosed before. He is out indefinitely.