The St. Louis Cardinals probably weren't hoping this would be such an issue going into Game 5 of the World Series, but after Derek Holland's Game 4 near-shutout the series is tied, and Chris Carpenter is the Cardinals' last chance to return to Busch Stadium with a series lead. Which means it's time for a narrative that's been around since just after the Cardinals finished celebrating the NLCS: How healthy is Chris Carpenter?
Said to be suffering from elbow soreness bad enough that the Cardinals questioned his availability for that series' phantom Game 7, Carpenter insisted repeatedly it wasn't a problem and proceeded to throw six fine innings in the Cardinals' Game 1 victory. That's not enough for everybody—other websites are running Chris Carpenter Is Done stories at this very moment—but a closer look at the numbers suggest Carpenter's as healthy as he's been all year.
In Game 1 Carpenter got through those six innings on 87 pitches, and if his spot in the batting order hadn't come up with what turned out to be the game-winning run on base, he probably would have pitched the seventh. Nothing in his performance suggested it would be a problem, aside from a long Mike Napoli home run—which is nobody's idea of a surprise outside the Los Angeles Angels' front office. Carp's four strikeouts and one walk were classic peripherals, and his nine swinging strikes were just one fewer than he got in his Game 5 shutout against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Carpenter might not be strong enough to push the Cardinals past C.J. Wilson twice in one week, but if he fails to get them on the right side of Wednesday's World Series elimination game it won't have anything to do with his gimpy tricep.