PHILADELPHIA – The ultimate ace, it turned out, belonged to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Chris Carpenter tossed a three-hitter to outpitch old pal Roy Halladay in a duel for the ages and St. Louis edged the Philadelphia Phillies 1-0 Friday night in the deciding Game 5 of their N.L. playoff series.
The wild-card Cardinals scored in the first inning when Rafael Furcal led off with a triple and Skip Schumaker followed with a double.
And that was it.
Heavily favored Philadelphia, which featured four accomplished aces in baseball’s best rotation, never broke through against Carpenter. Ryan Howard grounded out to end the game and hurt his leg coming out of the batter’s box – he limped a couple of steps and crumpled to the ground as St. Louis started to celebrate.
“It was some kind of fun,” said Carpenter, who walked none. “He’s a great friend of mine, and like I said, he did a great job tonight also.”
The Cardinals needed a monumental collapse by Atlanta in the final month and major help from the 102-win Phillies just to reach the playoffs. Now they’re heading to Milwaukee for the N.L. championship series starting Sunday following an upset in which they beat three of Philadelphia’s four aces: Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt.
“Actually, I don’t know what to say,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “I just got through talking to our team, and basically when I look at it, we played 162 games, and definitely we had the best record in baseball.
“I know that we’re capable of going farther in the playoffs. Our goal was to get to the World Series. It’s been that way for two years now,” he said.
Three of the majors’ four opening-round matchups went to a deciding Game 5, and all of them were pitching-rich thrillers. Detroit held off the New York Yankees 3-2 on Thursday night, and Milwaukee beat Arizona in 10 innings earlier Friday.
Then, the showdown between Carpenter and Halladay topped them all.
“Roy Halladay is, at this time, probably the best pitcher in the game and we were able to go out and jump ahead, which was huge,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter had eclipsed 100 pitches when he took the mound in the ninth. He retired Chase Utley on a fly to the warning track in center and got Hunter Pence on a grounder.
Howard was next, and Carpenter got the big slugger to end a most improbable series win.
Catcher Yadier Molina threw his mask toward the mound, Carpenter turned to the left at first looking for someone to celebrate with before his teammates finally got there, led by Albert Pujols. The congregation settled at second base, as just off to the right, while Howard was carried off the field and into his dugout.
Howard took a called third strike with the tying run on second base to end the Phillies’ season last year in the NLCS against San Francisco.
The expectations for Philadelphia were higher this year after Lee returned. The loss meant the teams with the top two records and payrolls in the majors – the Phillies and Yankees – were gone in the first round, even while holding home-field advantage.
“We had a great team this year. We had a great opportunity,” Pence said. “When you have a team like this, it’s definitely disappointing to not come through.”
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