Sunday, August 20, 2006 - At Wrigley Field (Chris Carpenter - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent: Chicago Cubs (Juan Mateo - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance: 40,485
The Cardinals jumped on Cubs rookie pitcher Juan Mateo for four first-inning runs - featuring a solo home run by Chris Duncan and the big blow - a three-run job by Juan Encarnacion. That was enough run support for Chris Carpenter (8 IP - 7 H - 2 R - 0 BB - 7 SO) - although they added a ninth-inning insurance run for good measure. When closer Jason Isringhausen gave up a lead-off home run to Aramis Ramirez in the bottom half of the ninth, the St Louis lead was trimmed to two again - but nobody else reached base. The 5-3 final improved Carpenter's season record to 12-6 - as the Cardinals (66-57) maintained a two and a half game lead on Cincinnati in the NL Central.
For Mateo, who recovered after that horrendous first inning to throw zeros for the next six innings - the damage had been done. He would suffer his first major league loss, after winning in his August 3 debut - allowing two earned runs in five innings of work to beat the D-backs. He would continue to struggle for the remainder of the season - finishing with a 1-3 record in ten starts - and an ERA close to 6.00. That was it. His big-league career would be over, at the tender age of twenty-three.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals - beset by injuries - were barely able to reach the postseason dance. They put together an improbable championship run with well-timed peak performances from several key players to win it all. But the team was in transition - slipping to a sub-.500 season the following year. But a few key trades and development of new talent would bring the franchise new life. By 2011, they would be back on top of the baseball world again.