Chris Carpenter kept throwing strike after strike. Mostly unhittable ones.
Carpenter pitched a one-hitter, allowing only a clean double to Jody Gerut in the fifth inning, and struck out 10 as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Milwaukee Brewers 3-0 Monday.
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“Unless it’s a certain situation late in the ballgame, or you have a chance to lose the game, or change the game, I’m going to come after you,” Carpenter said. “I’m not wasting pitches.
“I’m trying to get strike one, strike two and strike three as fast as I can, or get you to put the ball in play and let my guys work behind you,” he said.
Carpenter (16-3) did just that. He won his 11th straight decision and leads the majors with a 2.16 ERA.
He needed 99 pitches to throw his first shutout in three years, and allowed just two balls out of the infield.
Despite the impressive statistics, the right-hander said he was not thinking much about winning his second NL Cy Young Award.
“It’s the least of my concerns,” said Carpenter, who won it in 2005 with a 21-5 record. “I’ve won one before. It’s super awesome and fun and nice, but I’d much rather get to the playoffs and pitch in the World Series.”
Carpenter matched the best game of his career, having pitched a one-hitter in 2005 for St. Louis against Toronto. He walked two.
“We didn’t present a threat, for the most part,” Milwaukee manager Ken Macha said.
Frank Catalanotto flied out to open the fourth and Gerut doubled down the left-field line with one out in the fifth – those were the lone balls the Brewers hit to the outfield.
“It kept us out of the book, I suppose,” Gerut said of his double. “He throws strikes with electric stuff, it’s good stuff. You just hope you get a mistake because most of the time he puts it where he wants it.”
Albert Pujols hit a two-run double in the fifth, then doubled again and scored in the seventh for the NL Central leaders.
It was the 15th consecutive time that the Cardinals won the first game of a series. The last series opener St. Louis lost was a 3-2 decision at Houston on July 20.
“It’s a sign of consistency,” manager Tony La Russa said. “It’s a sign of getting ready to play. It’s also a sign that we’ve got a lot to play with. But mentally we’ve been on it. We’ve been pushing every game, every series. It’s been fun to watch these guys do it.”
Dave Bush (3-7) has lost seven consecutive decisions over his last nine starts dating to May 13.
Carpenter pitched his first shutout since beating Houston on Sept. 11, 2006. He missed most of the last two season with an injured right elbow, undergoing Tommy John surgery in July 2007.
Carpenter has beaten the Brewers twice in the last five days. He gave up three runs in six innings at Busch Stadium on Wednesday.
“He just has the ability to change his looks to a hitter,” La Russa said. “He can face the same club every week. He can pitch them differently. He has all those pitches.”
Besides Gerut, the only batters to reach against Carpenter were Felipe Lopez, who walked in the first, and pinch-hitter Craig Counsell, who walked in the ninth.
Pujols’ go-ahead double gave St. Louis the only runs it needed and brought cheers from the thousands of Cardinals fans in Miller Park.
Brendan Ryan singled to open the fifth, moved up on Carpenter’s sacrifice and Skip Schumaker singled. Pujols doubled over center fielder Corey Patterson‘s head to score both runners.
Pujols opened the seventh with a double off reliever Mark DiFelice and scored on Matt Holliday‘s single.
Milwaukee LF Ryan Braun was given a day off against Carpenter. Brewers manager Ken Macha said Braun has been bothered by minor aches in his shoulder. … Cardinals INF Mark DeRosa missed his third consecutive game because of a tight back. … Milwaukee CF Mike Cameron missed his second consecutive game with a tight hamstring. … Brewers RF Corey Hart is expected to return to the Brewers on Tuesday. He has been out since Aug. 2 when he had an appendectomy.