Tuesday, June 24, 2014

June 24, 2004 - Carpenter Blanks Error-Prone Cubs in Cards' 4-0 Win

Thursday, June 24, 2004 - At Busch Stadium II (Chris Carpenter - Starting Pitcher) - Opposition:  Chicago Cubs (Matt Clement - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  48,042

Heading into the rubber game of a three-game series with rival Chicago, the NL Central division-leading Cardinals were just two games ahead of the second-place Cubs.  As far as the Cardinals were concerned, Chris Carpenter would always be the guy they wanted on the mound in a big game - and this game was certainly "big enough".  A loss would shrink their lead to a single game - a scenario Carpenter simply refused to let happen.

Clement was pitching well, himself, until a fourth-inning error by shortstop Rey Ordonez helped facilitate a four-run Redbird rally.

The inning started with Albert Pujols reaching base after being hit by a pitch.  Scott Rolen - arguably the team's most productive player in 2004 - then advanced Pujols to second with a base hit to right field.  Jim Edmonds then moved both runners up to second and third with a ground out to first base - unassisted.

With first base open, the ever-dangerous Ray Lankford was intentionally walked, bringing up the not-so-dangerous Hector Luna to bat.  Luna's ground ball to shortstop Rey Ordonez - who won three straight Gold Gloves with the New York Mets from '97 to '99 - was booted.  Everybody was safe, as Pujols scored the first run of the night.  It would be the only earned run allowed by Clement.

The next batter - Mike Matheny - hit a sacrifice fly to center, which would have been the third out of the inning - instead, it scored Rolen with the second run.  Next up, Chris Carpenter helped his own cause with a line drive single to left field, scoring Lankford with another unearned run.  Finally, Tony Womack closed out the scoring with a single to center - bringing in Luna with still another unearned run.

Earned or unearned, the 4-0 lead was the reality the Cubs were faced with at this point - and at this point, reality wasn't being kind to Chicago.

Strangely enough, the Cubs had loaded the bases with one out in the top of the fourth - threatening to have a big inning, with Rey Ordonez the next batter.  Ordonez may have had worse nights than this - but probably not much worse.  His ground ball right back to Carpenter was turned into a pitcher to catcher to first - inning-ending double play - keeping the game scoreless - but not for long.

Carpenter worked the first eight scoreless innings - Isringhausen finished it off - not a save situation with that four run cushion - but Ryne Sandberg had long since retired, so no need to worry about a game-tying grand slam tonight.

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