Wednesday, June 29, 2011 - At Camden Yards (Chris Carpenter - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent: Baltimore Orioles (Chris Jakubauskas - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance: 17,405
This game - the 81st - marked the half-way point in the season for the Cardinals - a season that had its share of ups and downs. For Chris Carpenter, his share of downs had been exceedingly overabundant all season long - although he did win his last start to raise his record to 2-7.
In tonight's game, Carpenter would pitch nine innings for the first time this season - a 5-1 win over the Orioles - and in the process, win back-to-back starts for the first time in 2011, as well. But it wasn't as easy as it appeared.
The Cardinals quickly took the lead in the second inning, when Lance Berkman drew a lead-off walk, then Colby Rasmus went yard for a 2-0 advantage.
The next inning, it appeared the Redbirds were going to knock Jakubauskas out of the Yard and into the showers - but C.J. (as we'll call him from now on) minimized the damage to extend his outing for another couple of innings.
The third-inning began with Nick Punto's ground rule double, followed by Skip Schumaker's run-scoring single, followed by Jon Jay's single to left field, followed by C.J. plunking Matt Holliday with a pitch to load the bases. Still nobody out - one run already in.
Lance Berkman then smoked a sinking line drive to center field, which Adam Jones was able to grab for out number one - as Schumaker easily tagged from third to score the second run of the inning. However, David Freese then grounded one to J.J. Hardy who fielded it cleanly, stepped on second base, then threw to first to complete the easy double play.
Although the Cardinals now had a 4-0 lead - at Camden Yards against a powerful Orioles' lineup - no lead is safe. Baltimore immediately responded in their half of the third-inning - when, with two out, Hardy singled then came around to score on a Nick Markakis double.
St Louis scored their final run of the game off C.J. in the fifth-inning. This time it was Skip Schumaker getting a lead-off double - advancing to third on a sacrifice bunt by Jon Jay - then after an intentional walk to Berkman - Freese bounced one into center to score Skip.
The bottom of the fifth began ominously for Carpenter - when three consecutive singles by Pie, Davis and Hardy loaded the bases with nobody out. A long one here and it's a brand new ballgame - and the next three hitters were very capable of going deep - Markakis, Jones and Guerrero.
LaRussa stuck with his veteran - allowing Carpenter to work his way out of the jam - which is precisely what he did. Markakis grounded one right back to Carp who got the force out at home, while Markakis beat the relay to first. Jones then popped one up to short left field - too short to tag up from third - for the second out of the inning. Vladimir Guerrero - one of the greatest hitters of his generation - drilled one to deep right field - but not deep enough, as Jon Jay hauled it in to retire the side. Miraculously. No runs scored.
The rest of the game was quickly wrapped up with relative ease for Carpenter (3-7), who was on top of his game now. After this complete game win, the Cardinals' ace would finish the regular season with an 8-2 record - then go on to have one of the most dominant postseasons in franchise history.
This game - particularly his fifth-inning magic - set the tone all the way through Game Seven of the World Series. And that was bad news for the opposition.