Friday, August 15, 2014

August 15, 2006 - Carpenter Blanks Reds on 4 Hits - 5-0

Tuesday, August 15, 2006 - At Busch Stadium III (Chris Carpenter - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Cincinnati Reds (Aaron Harang - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  42,761

This was a big game for St Louis - and Chris Carpenter knew it.  The Cardinals had been struggling - to say the least - since the All Star break.  A loss in tonight's game would put the Reds just a half game behind the Cardinals in the NL Central - with Houston not far behind.  As far as Carp was concerned, this game was as "must win" as it gets in mid-August.

Offensively, the newest member of the Cardinals - second baseman Ronnie Belliard (acquired from Cleveland in exchange for Hector Luna on July 30) - drove in the first two runs for St Louis.  In the second-inning, his two-out single scored Scott Rolen from second base - and in the fourth-inning, he immediately followed Juan Encarnacion's one-out double with a double of his own - to provide Carpenter with a 2-0 lead.

That lead was extended in the fifth-inning.  After David Eckstein led-off with a single to center, Chris Duncan followed with a home run deep to right - one of twenty-two home runs Duncan would hit in just 95 games that season.

Albert Pujols - arguably the true NL MVP in '06 (based on WAR) - followed Duncan's blast with a double - then after moving up to third on a So Taguchi sacrifice bunt - scored when a rattled Aaron Harang uncorked a wild pitch to Rolen.  Harang managed to get through the inning with just three runs scored, but his night was over after five-innings - down 5-0.

The Cincinnati bullpen - future Cardinal Ryan Franklin and Brian Shackelford combined for three innings of scoreless relief - although it didn't matter.  Carpenter was in complete control of this game.

No relief was needed for the Cardinal ace, as he recorded the complete game shutout - allowing just four hits - walking none - and striking out six - to improve to 11-6 on the year.  Strangely enough, after this performance, Carpenter's ERA fell to 3.09 - and that's exactly where it finished when the season ended.  Most importantly, he would win four out of six decisions down the stretch - when every victory seemed so hard to come by as the Redbirds stumbled into the postseason by the slimmest of margins.

After this win, the Cardinals (63-55) were now 2.5 games ahead of the Reds (61-58) - and 6.5 games ahead of the Astros (57-62).  After a lackluster 20-23 record for the rest of the season, the Redbirds (83-78)  lost five games in the standings to Houston's 25-18 finish - who finished the season in second place (82-80).  The Reds fell to third (80-82) - thanks to their even more lackluster 19-24 finish.  Cincinnati had the opportunity to take control of the division - but it just wasn't in the cards.

By the time the postseason arrived, all that travail seemed like a distant memory.  When the Redbirds won 11 postseason games in just 16 tries, they were world champions - a big shock to practically everybody outside of Cardinal Nation.  After all, this is what the Cards did in the regular season against the three teams they faced in the postseason:  Padres (2-4) - Mets (2-4) - Tigers (0-3) - Combined:  (4-11) - Ug.

To those who thought St Louis had no chance against San Diego...absolutely no chance against New York...then who thought Detroit would sweep - all I can say is...They were due!

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