Chris Carpenter Outpitches Roy Halladay, Cardinals Defeat Phillies To Reach NLCS

The St. Louis Cardinals won and the Atlanta Braves lost, clinching an NLDS appearance for the Wild Card Cardinals.

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Cardinals Vs. Phillies: St. Louis Cardinals Reach NLCS, Rafael Furcal Stars Behind Carpenter

The St. Louis Cardinals’ decision to trade for a questionably healthy Rafael Furcal could have been the most important one they made all season—he was the most important position player behind Chris Carpenter’s shutout, putting together a series of outstanding plays and lacing a leadoff triple to score the only run of the game and push the streaking Cardinals into the NLCS.

Furcal’s eighth-inning robbery of Carlos Ruiz (video here at was one of the most remarkable plays of the series; after the game Furcal told Craig Sager that he knew he had to make the best throw of his career, and he absolutely did it to earn the second out of the inning.

But it was his triple that allowed Carpenter to win the game on his own terms. Followed up immediately by Skip Schumaker, who went 10 pitches into an at-bat before doubling into right-center field, it got the Cardinals on the board before they made their first out—and it turned out to be the only chance they’d get against Roy Halladay, who turned back into Roy Halladay immediately afterward.


Chris Carpenter Tosses Shutout, St. Louis Cardinals Beat Philadelphia Phillies To Reach NLCS

The St. Louis Cardinals gave Chris Carpenter one first inning run against Roy Halladay, and that’s all their ace needed as he tossed a shutout to get the Cardinals past the favored Philadelphia Phillies and into their first NLCS since their 2006 World Series championship season. Some outstanding plays from Rafael Furcal—leader of the Happy Flight, and the man who made “the best throw of my life” to keep the Phillies scoreless in the eighth—and Nick Punto punctuated the three-hitter for Carpenter, who lost his first game of the series after struggling on three days’ rest.

Skip Schumaker’s RBI double—after Rafael Furcal’s leadoff triple—was the only run of the game, and it came after Schumaker got a surprise start in center field and before he left the game in the third inning with an oblique injury. It was an incredible series of events for a team that needed an incredible series of events to get to the NLDS in the first place.

The Cardinals will meet the MIlwaukee Brewers with the World Series on the line Sunday October 9 at 3:05 CDT.


David Freese Inspires Puns, Fear; St. Louis Cardinals Tie Series At 2

Okay, here's the official David Freese Pun of SB Nation St. Louis: "Freese Frames." As the official website puts it, the St. Louis Cardinals were "Freese 'birds" Wednesday night, with their oft-injured third baseman doubling and homering off Roy Oswalt to drive in four of the Cardinals' five runs on the way to a series-tying 5-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. Edwin Jackson allowed two runs in six innings to pick up his first career playoff victory; Jason Motte picked a perfect ninth inning for his second NLDS save. 

The Phillies scored two runs in the first inning, but the Cardinals, who've inspired an almost unwavering confidence in comeback situations since their September run began, halved the deficit in the bottom of the first when Lance Berkman doubled in a run. From there it was all David Freese—in the fourth he laced a double hard down the left field line, and in the sixth he hit a long home run onto the grass in dead-center field. Oswalt struck out five and walked one and generally looked sharp, as he typically does with a chance to confound the Cardinals' playoff hopes, but Freese came up each time the Cardinals had a chance to rally and made sure it happened.

The Cardinals and Phillies will reconvene Friday for all the marbles—Game 5 of the NLDS is set for 7:30 PM CDT in Philadelphia, to be televised on TBS. Chris Carpenter will line up against Roy Halladay


Matt Holliday Will Start For St. Louis Cardinals In Game 4, Per Reports

The St. Louis Cardinals made the tough decision to leave injured slugger Matt Holliday on their postseason roster ahead of the NLDS, and after some painful pinch-hitting duties over the first three games of the series Holliday will finally get the start in Game 4, with the Cardinals down two games to one against the Philadelphia Phillies, according to reports on Twitter from B.J. Rains and Derrick Goold.

Holliday has been dealing since September with a tendon injury on his right middle finger, one that’s made it extremely difficult for him to throw, but the Cardinals were shielded from the worst of his absence by the emergence of Allen Craig, who’s gone 1-14 with a triple and four walks in three NLDS appearances.

If Holliday had been unable to go the Cardinals were apparently going to move second baseman Skip Schumaker to the outfield, so Holliday’s return—while still dangerous, as he remains uncomfortable throwing the baseball—has the secondary benefit of saving Tony La Russa from himself. Holliday hit .296/.388/.525 with 22 home runs and 36 doubles in 124 games in 2011, the second year on a long-term contract that takes him through 2016.


St. Louis Cardinals Sink On Ben Francisco's Home Run, Philadelphia Phillies Go Up 2-1

Jaime Garcia matched Cole Hamels for six scoreless innings until Ben Francisco's three-run pinch-hit home run staked the Phillies to a lead and the Cardinals' ninth-inning rally was too-little, too-late Tuesday afternoon. The Redbirds scattered 12 hits and wasted a three-double night from Albert Pujols—not to mention a four-hit day from platoon second baseman Ryan Theriot—managing just two runs from four hits against Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson in the eighth and ninth innings. 

Garcia was having one of his most economical outings of the season until the home run broke things up—he spread 100 pitches across seven innings, while the Cardinals got Hamels to throw 117 in six scoreless. Fernando Salas and Jason Motte each threw a scoreless inning in the loss.

The Cardinals will attempt to stave off elimination Wednesday at 5:00 CDT when Edwin Jackson toes the mound against Roy Oswalt, the Phillies' ersatz fourth starter. New Busch Stadium will get its second look at an elimination game—the first since they were swept in the 2009 NLDS, and got a single game on the field christened by the 2006 World Series championships. 


St. Louis Cardinals Stun Phillies, Rally Past Cliff Lee In Game 2

The St. Louis Cardinals won their first postseason game since 2006 Sunday night, rallying back from a four-run deficit to stun Cliff Lee and the Philadelphia Phillies 5-4 in the second game of their 2011 NLDS matchup. After Chris Carpenter, starting on three days' rest, fell apart immediately things looked grim, but Fernando Salas and the Cardinals' bullpen combined to throw six scoreless innings to hold Philadelphia at four runs. Meanwhile, the Cardinals' offense, tops in the National League, went to work. 

Ryan Theriot and Jon Jay were the surprise heroes, with Jay driving in two runs from the eighth spot in the lineup and Theriot doubling twice ahead of him. Albert Pujols, still limping, went 2-5 with two singles and an RBI, and Rafael Furcal went 2-5 with a triple. 

For the Phillies the whole thing was eerily similar to what they'd pulled off against the Cardinals just the night before. After putting up three first-inning runs against the Cardinals' ace, their offense shut down, reaching base just once against a collection of six Cardinals relief pitchers, including Jason Motte, who went an inning and a third for his first postseason save. After walking three times against Chris Carpenter they didn't manage another all night.  

The box score is available at the Cardinals' very celebratory official website. Game three of the series hits Busch Stadium on Tuesday. 


Albert Pujols Injury: Pujols Limps, Goes 2-5 In Cardinals Win Sunday

You might be worried about Albert Pujols's apparent injury—his limping all around the basepaths is even worse than usual in the first two games of the St. Louis Cardinals' NLDS against the Philadelphia Phillies—but one thing is for certain after the Cardinals' Game 2 victory, in which Pujols was caught off base twice because of his usual ambitiousness: He isn't. Telling the postgamers that "Nothing hurts during the postseason" and running with his usual brusqueness, Pujols hasn't yet hit a really Pujolsian line drive but he's done everything else to suggest that he won't let what's bothering him bother him.

Maybe that's what makes Albert Pujols Albert Pujols and me a blogger. The guy isn't a machine, but he's determined to pretend he's one. Despite limping like ASIMO for the better part of his career Pujols always seems to play as though he's at 100%. Sometimes it means he gets thrown out because of his intense belief that he's way faster and more invisible than he really is, but I have to think it's worth the risk to see him act like nothing hurts when he's clearly lying. 


Cardinals Vs. Phillies Update: Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez Chase Kyle Lohse In Five-Run Sixth

After carrying a 3-1 lead through five innings the St. Louis Cardinals and starter Kyle Lohse were struck for five runs by the Philadelphia Phillies offense in the bottom of the sixth inning, when Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez hit two home runs and drove in five to put the Phillies up 6-3. Roy Halladay looks locked in after a three-run first, so the Cardinals are in for some rallying with the bullpen up early. 

Howard's home run was his eighth in 153 postseason at-bats and his second in five NLDS series. Lohse's start was his first in NLDS play after four appearances and one start in the ALDS. 

Lohse's night ends with four strikeouts and one walk—but two home runs and five earned runs—in five-and-a-third innings, and the Howard home run came after a long at-bat in which he'd nearly struck out the Phillies' slugger twice. Octavio Dotel came in to strike out both batters he faced to end the inning, with Marc Rzepczynski in to start the seventh inning.


MLB Postseason: Lance Berkman Homers To Put St. Louis Cardinals Up 3-0 Vs. Phillies

Lance Berkman followed up a four-pitch walk to Albert Pujols with a three-run home run to put the St. Louis Cardinals ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies by a score of 3-0 in Game 1 of their 2011 MLB Postseason series. The Cardinals avoided their NL Central counterparts’ fate against Roy Halladay from last-season after Rafael Furcal led off the game with a single, and Berkman wasted no time depositing a Halladay pitch into the right field stands at Citizen’s Bank Park.

Kyle Lohse, the Cardinals’ surprise starter for the NLDS opener, used just six pitches to get through the Phillies’ first three hitters in the bottom of the inning. The Phillies’ vaunted top three of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels are an ominous sign for any team in a best-of-five series, and the Cardinals will have to deal with Halladay twice if this series goes past three games.

Berkman hit .301/.412/.547 with 31 home runs in 145 regular-season games in his first season as the Cardinals’ starting right fielder. He’s moved to left with Matt Holliday unable to go in Game 1 of the series.


Matt Holliday Injury: Cardinals OF Gets Cortisone Shot, NLDS Status Unknown

The St. Louis Cardinals clinched their Wild Card spot on the last day of the regular season, but they did it without Matt Holliday, who's dealing with a finger problem that's dogged him for the last several weeks. With champagne flowing in the Houston visitor's clubhouse after the game, Holliday acknowledged that he'd be getting a cortisone shot in an attempt to be ready for the postseason opener, Saturday's NLDS Game One in Philadelphia, but the Cardinals haven't yet offered an update on their star outfielder's condition. The Post-Dispatch reported after the game that Holliday's inability to throw was what kept him out of the game Wednesday. 

Holliday was outstanding when healthy in 2011, but he struggled throughout the season with a series of strange and individually unimportant injuries, beginning with an emergency appendectomy that sidelined him after the first game of the regular season. His 124 games in 2011 were the fewest he's played since 2004, his rookie season. 

In his absence the Cardinals will start rookie Allen Craig, who hit .315/.362/.555 in 75 games as the team's all-purpose replacement-slugger. After an unimpressive debut in 2010, Craig hit 11 home runs while standing at left field, right field, second base, center field, first base, and third base at various points in 2011. 

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