Ranking the 10 Greatest Moments of Chris Carpenter's MLB Career

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistNovember 20, 2013

Ranking the 10 Greatest Moments of Chris Carpenter's MLB Career

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    It looks like the end of an era for the St. Louis Cardinals, as former ace Chris Carpenter is set to announce his retirement this offseason.

    According to a tweet from Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the 38-year-old free agent has informed the team that he is officially hanging it up after missing all of the 2013 season with right shoulder issues.

    The 15-year big league veteran finishes his career 144-94 with a 3.76 ERA, with 95 of those wins coming in his nine seasons as a member of the Cardinals. He's also made an impact in the clubhouse, helping mentor Adam Wainwright and a number of the team's other young pitchers.

    So with that, here is a look at the 10 greatest moments in the career of Chris Carpenter, one of the most accomplished pitchers in Cardinals history.

     

    *Game Score stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.

10. Signing with Cardinals as a Free Agent on November 13, 2002

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Career Stats w/Blue Jays152 G, 135 GS, 49-50, 4.83 ERA, 1.510 WHIP

    A first-round pick in the 1993 draft, Carpenter broke in the big leagues as a 22-year-old in 1997, going 3-7 with a 5.09 ERA in 14 games (13 starts) for the Blue Jays.

    His career came along slowly, though he looked to turn a corner in 2001 when he went 11-11 with a 4.09 ERA in 34 starts. However, he struggled with injuries the following season and underwent shoulder surgery in September 2002.

    The Cardinals signed him prior to the 2003 season hoping he'd be back by the All-Star break, but he wound up missing the entire season. His career took off from there though, as he won 15 games in 2004 and won the NL Cy Young award the following season.

9. Returning to Pitch on September 21, 2012

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    Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

    Game Stats: ND, 5 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 2 K, 50 Game Score

    When the then 37-year-old was shut down indefinitely during spring training of 2012, it looked like there was a chance he might be out the entire year. 

    He was eventually diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, and he underwent surgery to repair it on July 19 and was expected to take at least six months to recover.

    Instead, Carpenter was back on the mound less than three months later, making three starts down the stretch for the Cardinals and going 0-2 with a 3.71 ERA.

    He then picked up the win in Game 3 of the NLDS against the Nationals, throwing 5.2 scoreless innings. He allowed 12 hits and 10 runs (four earned) while earning the loss in both of his NLCS starts, but the fact that he was even on the mound in the postseason was a testament to his work ethic.

8. Winning Game 3 of the 2006 World Series

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Game Stats: Win, 8 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 0 BB, 6 K, 82 Game Score

    Carpenter finishes his career 3-0 with a 2.00 ERA in four World Series starts, and he made his first outing in the Fall Classic against the Detroit Tigers back in 2006.

    With the series tied 1-1, he allowed just a pair of singles to Sean Casey and a single to Brandon Inge over eight scoreless innings of work, before giving way to reliever Braden Looper in the ninth inning.

    The Cardinals went on to win the series in five games, and it would be until the 2011 season that he got the opportunity to pitch in the World Series again.

7. Being Named NL Starter for 2005 All-Star Game

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    All-Star Game Stats: 1 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 0 BB, 0 K

    With the Cardinals winning the NL pennant in 2004, manager Tony LaRussa was given the task of naming the 2005 NL All-Star Game roster, and he chose Carpenter as his starting pitcher.

    He was more than deserving, sitting at 13-4 with a 2.51 ERA through 18 first-half starts, as he was on his way to an NL Cy Young award and the best season of his career.

    Carpenter induced a groundout from Johnny Damon to lead off the first inning, before giving up back-to-back singles to Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz. He managed to get out of trouble though, getting Manny Ramirez to ground into a double play, ending his lone inning of work.

6. Winning 2009 NL Comeback Player of the Year

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    2009 Stats: 28 GS, 17-4, 2.24 ERA, 1.007 WHIP, 144 K, 192.2 IP

    After going 51-18 with a 3.10 ERA over his first three seasons with the Cardinals, Carpenter was hit hard by injuries, and his career looked to be sidetracked once again.

    He pitched in just five total games in 2007 and 2008 combined, going 0-2 with a 3.38 ERA in a total of 21.1 innings of work, but he was back healthy to open the 2009 season.

    He won the NL ERA title in 2009 at 2.24, while finishing second to Tim Lincecum in NL Cy Young voting and 14th in NL MVP voting.

5. Throwing One-Hitter in First Career Start Against Toronto Blue Jays

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Game Stats: Win, 9 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, 10 K, 94 Game Score

    It was not until June 14, 2005 that Carpenter got a chance to pitch against the team that cut him loose back in 2002, and he made the most of his chance to show the Blue Jays exactly what they had missed out on.

    Carpenter held the Blue Jays hitless through 5.2 innings, before surrendering a double to shortstop Russ Adams out of the No. 9 spot in the lineup.

    The only other baserunner he allowed was a leadoff walk to catcher Gregg Zaun in the third inning, but he managed to get the next hitter out on a double-play groundout by Orlando Hudson.

    Carpenter's game score of 94 was the single best mark of his big league career, as he was clearly pitching with a chip on his shoulder in this particular game.

4. Shutout in Game 162 of 2011 to Clinch Playoff Spot

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    Game Stats: Win, 9 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 11 K, 93 Game Score

    The final day of the 2011 regular season goes down as one of the most memorable single days in sports history, and the Cardinals were right in the thick of the drama.

    Facing off against the Houston Astros, the Cardinals entered the game tied for the NL Wild Card with the Atlanta Braves.

    It was a must-win game for the Cardinals, and they gave the ball to their ace with no intention of taking it away from him. The Cardinals jumped out to an early 5-0 lead in the top of the first inning, and Carpenter made sure the Astros didn't make their way back into the game.

    He allowed just a single and a walk to Jose Altuve, and a single to J.B. Shuck, but those were the only baserunners the Astros could muster.

    A win by the Phillies over the Braves took care of the other half of things, as the Cardinals clinched the NL Wild Card and went on to win it all that year.

3. Winning 2005 NL Cy Young

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    2005 Stats: 33 GS, 21-5, 2.83 ERA, 1.055 WHIP, 213 K, 241.2 IP

    The 2005 season was Carpenter at his finest, as he recorded a quality start in 27 of his 33 outings, including four shutouts and an NL-high seven complete games.

    He received 19 of the 32 first-place Cy Young votes, as Dontrelle Willis (11) and Roger Clemens (2) finished second and third in the voting.

    His 2.83 ERA was higher than both of those guys but was inflated by a pair of poor outings in which he gave up 17 earned runs in 8.2 innings of work. Remove those two starts, and his ERA was a dazzling 2.28, as he was dominant for the vast majority of the season.

    Carpenter joins Bob Gibson, who won the award twice, as the only other Cardinals pitcher to earn Cy Young honors.

2. Winning Game 7 of the 2011 World Series

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    Game Stats: Win, 6 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, 5 K, 55 Game Score

    It was by no means the best start of Carpenter's career. Heck, it was not even his best start of the 2011 postseason, but to be the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the World Series is something special.

    Following a dramatic Game 6 victory that goes down as arguably the most exciting game in World Series history, emotions were running high heading into Game 7 against the Texas Rangers.

    Carpenter brought the calming veteran presence to the mound that the Cardinals needed, for what was his third start of the series, having picked up the win in Game 1 and a no-decision in Game 5.

    Pitching on just three days' rest, Carpenter surrendered two runs in the top of the first inning on back-to-back RBI doubles from Josh Hamilton and Michael Young.

    He buckled down from there though, allowing just three hits and no runs over the next five innings, and he departed with his team up 5-2 in the seventh inning. The bullpen slammed the door from there, and the Cardinals were champions.

1. Shutout in 2011 NLDS Game 5

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    Game Stats: Win, 9 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 0 BB, 3 K, 84 Game Score

    The World Series clinching victory to cap off the 2011 season was a great moment for the Cardinals team as a whole, but as far as individual performances go, Game 5 of the NLDS that year takes the top spot on here.

    Squaring off against a heavily favored Phillies team, the Cardinals came away with a victory in Game 4 to set up a fantastic pitcher's duel between Roy Halladay and Carpenter in the decisive Game 5.

    The Cardinals pushed across a run against Halladay in the top of the first, as Rafael Furcal led off the game with a triple and Skip Schumaker plated him with an RBI double.

    That was all the Cardinals would get against the eventual Cy Young winner, as Halladay allowed just four hits and no runs through the end of the eighth inning, and Ryan Madson pitched a scoreless ninth, but that was all the support Carpenter needed.

    A single and double from Shane Victorino, and a hit-by-pitch and single from Chase Utley were the only baserunners the Phillies managed, as Carpenter threw 110 pitches to gut out the complete-game win and advance the Cardinals to the NLCS.