Strong Start By Carpenter
As Chris Carpenter breezed through the Los Angeles Dodgers lineup on Thursday night, all of Cardinal Nation gave a deep sigh of relief while they celebrated the 7-1 victory.
The St. Louis right-hander had not been sharp since getting hit on his pitching arm by a line drive in late June, but the veteran was efficient and in command for eight innings, only surrendering four hits and an Andre Ethier solo home run. Carpenter struck out six and has apparently corrected the mechanical flaws that had plagued his starts earlier in July, as he did not walk a Dodger.
Carpenter was able to locate his curve, something that he had been unable to do in his last two starts. He had allowed 11 earned runs and 18 hits with four walks in only nine innings during the July funk, leading to fears among Cardinal fans that the former Cy Young winner was injured. But the team insisted he was fine, and pitching coach Dave Duncan said just before the All-Star break that Carpenter's issues were in his delivery, specifically the way he was landing on his left leg.
So one great fear of the second half is eliminated right away. Carpenter was masterful, crisp, and efficient, getting out of innings with very few pitches. And that was important on a typical St. Louis July night rampant with heat and humidity.
Carpenter only threw 101 pitches in his eight innings but wasn't asked to do more in the muggy conditions, giving way to Mitchell Boggs, who finished the game with no drama.
Offense Does Its Part
Another positive development was the Cardinal offense. Dodger lefty Clayton Kershaw has bedeviled the Redbirds in the past, but he wasn't sharp tonight and St. Louis took advantage. Albert Pujols had three hits and Yadier Molina and Aaron Miles each added two to the team total of 12. The offense was able to string hits together and put runs on the scoreboard in four different innings.
In the first game of the second half of the season, the lineup showed patience and discipline at the plate. The batters allowed a wild Kershaw to work himself into trouble, and they took advantage of his mistakes. They went with pitches to the opposite field and made productive uses of their at-bats, getting runners advanced when they made outs.
Shortstop Brendan Ryan's problems have not gone away, though. Ryan got the start but did not get a hit. After taking the collar in his four at-bats, Ryan's average has dropped to .190 on the season.
The Cardinals recalled Allen Craig from Memphis to replace outfielder Nick Stavinoha, who was placed on the 15-day DL with a shoulder sprain. Craig had two RBI and hit the ball hard, but he did not record a hit, and he has only one hit hit in 21 Major League at-bats. He was replaced in the sixth inning by another rookie, Jon Jay, who extended his 12-game hit streak with an RBI double in the seventh. Jay continues to be a spark to the lineup, as he is now hitting .386 on the season.
With Cincinnati having the day off, St. Louis is only one-half game out of first. With Carpenter back to being himself and the offense looking like it should, Cardinal fans are feeling a bit better about the team and the second half of the season.