Game 3 of NLCS shapes up as battle of aces

On the day he pitches, Chris Carpenter can be an ornery cuss. He

prowls the mound, barks at hitters, and on at least one occasion

has been known to invite a basepath collision.

Though just an 11-game winner for the St. Louis Cardinals, the

36-year-old right-hander has been in dominating mode since

midseason. Apparently in the Milwaukee Brewers’ heads, too, heading

into a matchup of aces in Game 3 of the NL championship series on

Wednesday night against 17-game winner Yovani Gallardo.

”Yo has been our best guy, he loves being in these

situations,” Brewers leadoff man Corey Hart said. ”It’s our guy

against their guy. Both are best guys.”

Carpenter mixed it up with volatile Nyjer Morgan in September

and was labeled a ”phony” by Brewers pitcher Zack Greinke prior

to the series.

Nothing phony about the results.

Carpenter shut down Milwaukee twice in September, allowing only

two runs in 17 innings to fuel an improbable drive for the NL

wild-card berth. He’s coming off a career signature moment, a

three-hit shutout against Roy Halladay that eliminated the favored

Phillies in the NL division series.

Carpenter has been clutch throughout his career in the

postseason, too, going 6-2 with a 2.94 ERA. He pushed aside his

friendship with Halladay for a 1-0 win in Game 5 of the NL division

series, and will do his best to not allow Brewers animosity to

affect him.

So, sorry, no feud. Just getting ready for a big start.

You can probably forget about the rally squirrel, too. The

Cardinals are capitalizing on the craze, giving 40,000 rally towels

featuring a squirrel, but by Tuesday afternoon team officials had

caught four of the critters.

”Are we still talking about that?” St. Louis utilityman Allen

Craig said. ”People are laughing at us. We’re talking about

squirrels.”

Carpenter dismisses Greinke’s assessment, too.

”He doesn’t know me, he’s never been a teammate of mine, he can

say what he wants,” Carpenter said.

”Every year, and every round of the playoffs, there’s

distractions all around,” he said. ”It can go from family stuff,

clubhouse stuff, opponents, friendships, whatever it is. If you

can’t eliminate that on your day, you’re going to have extra

trouble.”

The Brewers were on their best behavior Tuesday, skirting the

issue of bad blood.

Making a reference to Greinke’s battle with social anxiety

disorder, manager Ron Roenicke said the pitcher’s comments were

”no big deal” and told reporters, ”You guys know Zack, and you

know what he’s going to say when you ask questions.”

Morgan, who flung a wad of chewing tobacco at Carpenter in a

shouting match in early September and ridiculed the Cardinals on

Twitter, had nothing to say. He politely declined interview

requests before and after the Brewers’ workout, saying only

”Nope.”

”There’s so much at stake, I don’t think either team wants to

get caught up in the drama,” Milwaukee star Ryan Braun said. ”It

makes a good story, it’s good for you guys.

”Both teams are three games away from the World Series, that’s

what they’re going to focus on.”

Gallardo needs to ignore a different sort of clutter – his utter

lack of success against the Cardinals.

The 25-year-old right-hander has been the Brewers’ only

consistent starter in the postseason, with an impressive 0.86 ERA

in 21 innings, and is coming off a strong finishing stretch. He

just can’t beat the Cardinals, saddled with a 1-7 career record and

5.66 ERA after losing to them in consecutive starts in early

September.

”Well, I can’t explain it,” Gallardo said. ”I’m 1-7 against

these guys but I try to forget about those things. I mean, even if

goes the other way around, 7-1.”

Dueling Carpenter is plenty for him now.

”We all know what kind of pitcher he is. He has great stuff and

obviously he’s had great success,” Gallardo said. ”It should be a

pretty exciting game.

”I’m definitely going to have to bring my ‘A’ game.”

But lest anyone think the Cardinals own Gallardo, there’s this

nugget: In his lone victory in May in St. Louis, he took a no-hit

bid into the eighth.

The Cardinals knocked out Shaun Marcum in the fifth inning of a

12-3 blowout on Monday that evened the series at a game apiece.

It’s anticipated that Game 3 will be a much lower scoring affair

with oddsmakers placing the over-under at seven runs.

Roenicke is considering starting Carlos Gomez, a better

defensive player in center field than Morgan but not as dangerous

at the plate. Morgan is 3 for 20 in the postseason.

”We may make a change or two,” Roenicke said. ”I think we’ll

probably stay the same, but we’ll see.”

The biggest bat for Carpenter to avoid might be Rickie Weeks,

and not the Brewers’ big two of Braun and Prince Fielder. Weeks is

6 for 10 with three homers and six RBIs.

Albert Pujols has the Brewers’ full attention after a breakout

Game 2 in which he homered with three doubles and five RBIs.

”We have to make good pitches,” Roenicke said. ”We have to

make better pitches to him. We hope we get it to a better spot and

we hope he misses.”