Cards lose Game 2; NLCS even at 1-1

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Chris Carpenter never felt right. There

were command problems, and one pitch he wanted back that might have

changed the game.

His remarkable return finally hit a rough stretch Monday night.

The

St. Louis Cardinals’ longtime postseason ace came back from a

complicated operation that removed a rib and two neck muscles just to

get on the mound again this October for the reigning World Series

champions.

His recent run of spectacular playoff pitching ended

in one tough inning as St. Louis lost Game 2 of the NL championship

series to the San Francisco Giants 7-1 and headed back home to Busch

Stadium with the best-of-seven showdown tied at 1.

“A little bit

of everything,” he said, addressing what went wrong. “Command wasn’t

good, sharpness wasn’t as good as I’d like. At the end it came down to

one pitch that could have changed the game around and moved on to the

next inning, and I wasn’t able to make that pitch.”

And he’s not

talking about the leadoff home run by Angel Pagan in the first inning.

Marco Scutaro’s two-out, two-run single in the fourth put San Francisco

ahead 5-1.

After Pagan’s drive, Carpenter made quick work of the

Giants with consecutive 11-pitch innings before a mistake-filled fourth

did in the Cardinals.

And, strangely enough on this night,

Carpenter might have helped the Cardinals more with his bat than his

arm. He hit an RBI double in the second inning off Ryan Vogelsong for

St. Louis’ lone run.

“I got lucky,” he said. “You get lucky every once in a while.”

In

the fourth, Carpenter was charged with a throwing error when he fielded

Brandon Crawford’s tough chopper to his left and made a rushed throw to

first that was out of reach for Allen Craig. That allowed the go-ahead

run to come home, and San Francisco added another when left fielder Matt

Holliday misplayed Scutaro’s hit and a third run scored on the play.

Carpenter’s

night was done after that, a 29-pitch inning. The bearded right-hander

took a seat in the dugout, stone faced and seemingly unfazed. He allowed

two earned runs, five in all, and six hits in four innings — and his

postseason ERA in two outings this year is still an impressive 1.86.

“I’m

not going to make going to make excuses about what was going on,”

Carpenter said. “I just didn’t have good stuff tonight and I didn’t

pitch well enough to win.”

He certainly will be eager for another

chance, and soon: Carpenter is ultra-competitive, one of the Cardinals’

most decorated players and their winningest pitcher in the postseason

with 10 victories.

Carpenter played a key role during last year’s

title run, going 4-0, with wins in the division series clincher and

again in the decisive Game 7 of the World Series against the Texas

Rangers.

After Carpenter went winless in his very short regular

season, there he was throwing shutout ball in an 8-0 Game 3 win in the

division series against Washington last Wednesday — 5 2-3 scoreless

innings to be exact.

A few mistakes cost Carpenter in this one.

“I

thought he threw pretty well,” manager Mike Matheny said. “A couple of

things added up. The real hard-hit balls ended up just stacking on top

of each other. He’s been real sharp lately. We have faith in him in

these situations and know he’ll come out next opportunity and make good

pitches for us.”

The 37-year-old Carpenter had surgery on July 19

to cure numbness on his right side. He had put off the procedure back

in 2008, when the symptoms weren’t nearly as bad and he was just plain

scared to do it.

Once the numbness became constant, began moving

up into his face and became far more than an annoyance that caused

tingling in his arm and fingers, he had had enough. He went for the

operation, knowing full well it would be months before he pitched again.

These days, he has a scar beneath his collarbone serving as a constant reminder.

“The

Cardinals have invested a lot into me, and I felt an obligation to go

ahead and invest my body back into them a little bit and see what

happens,” Carpenter said.

After hours of grueling rehab,

Carpenter made his season debut Sept. 21 against the Cubs at Wrigley

Field. He threw all of 17 innings in three starts — all over the last

two weeks — and that’s hardly even a spring training tuneup for a

grind-it-out kind of guy accustomed to working 200 innings, or at least

something close.

“He’s a great competitor,” second baseman Daniel Descalso said. “It’s a great story. People said he would be out for the year.”

While

Carpenter insists he’s still fighting and relearning his mechanics at

times, he has given Matheny more than the rookie manager ever could have

expected as together they try to get back to the World Series.

“He’s

gone through so many things that a lot of pitchers, a lot of players

would just say, `OK, you know what, this has gotten the best of me,

maybe it’s time to hang them up, I won my World Series and all that,'”

Matheny said. “But he has such a desire to pitch and get through this.

He’s a competitor, like I’ve never seen.”