The Cardinals managed a 5-4 comeback win against Cliff Lee and the Phillies, despite what looked like a fatal move after two innings by manager Tony La Russa. This National League Division Series will head back to St. Louis tied up at one game apiece.
Starting Chris Carpenter on three’s days rest looked like a horrible decision by La Russa. Carpenter was missing the strike zone and when he was close, wasn’t getting the calls he felt he deserved. The Phillies responded by scoring three runs in the first and another in the second to jump out to a 4-0 lead.
A lead off double by Jimmy Rollins was followed by two walks to Chase Utley and Hunter Pence to load the bases for Ryan Howard, the hero of game one. Howard stroked a single to center scoring two and Raul Ibanez followed with an RBI single two batters later.
In the second with two outs, Rollins doubled again and Utley walked. Pence singled to score Rollins and Howard just missed blowing the game open flying deep to left to end the inning. From there the Cardinals escaped and battled.
The plan was to pitch Carpenter on three days rest, something the 36 year old has never done in his career, to keep the Cardinals in the series against one of the league’s best pitchers, Cliff Lee. The plan was not working. In fact, La Russa had to go into scramble mode.
Taking advantage of a wild Lee in the fourth, who had allowed two hits and struck out four through the first three, La Russa pinch hit for Carpenter in the fourth with the Cardinals rallying. Nick Punto struck out pinch hitting, but Rafael Furcal’s single scored Ryan Theriot while Jon Jay was cut down at the plate making it a 4-3 game.
Earlier in the inning, Theriot doubled to right scoring Lance Berkman and Jay singles scoring Yadier Molina who walked and reached on infield singles respectively.
So, turning the ball over to the bullpen for the final six innings looked like a horrible proposition, but Sunday night they delivered.
Fernando Salas, Octavio Dotel, Mark Rzepcynski, Mitchell Boggs, Arthur Rhodes and Jason Motte combined for six innings of one hit ball the rest of the way as the Cardinals scored another run in the sixth and Albert Pujols’ RBI single in the seventh put the Cards on top for good against Lee who somehow squandered a 4-0 lead.
Lee gave up a career tying high 12 hits in six plus innings while walking two and striking out nine.
After his near fatal decision of trotting Carpenter out on three day’s rest following a 105 pitch performance last Wednesday in Houston, La Russa could come out looking like a genius if this series goes back to Philadelphia tied at two games apiece with Carpenter ready to pitch the decisive game on four days rest.
The series resumes Tuesday at 4:07 at Busch Stadium and Wednesday at 5:07.