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Brewers get ready for revitalized Carpenter

ST. LOUIS – On the day he pitches, Chris Carpenter can be an ornery cuss. He prowls the mound, barks at hitters, and on at least one occasion has been known to invite a basepath collision.

Though just an 11-game winner for the St. Louis Cardinals, the 36-year-old right-hander has been in dominating mode since midseason. Apparently in the Milwaukee Brewers’ heads, too, heading into a matchup of aces in Game 3 of the National League championship series tonight against 17-game winner Yovani Gallardo.

“Yo has been our best guy, he loves being in these situations,” Brewers leadoff man Corey Hart said.

“It’s our guy against their guy. Both are best guys.”

Carpenter mixed it up with volatile Nyjer Morgan in September and was labeled a “phony” by Brewers pitcher Zack Greinke prior to the series.

Nothing phony about the results.

Carpenter shut down Milwaukee twice in September, allowing only two runs in 17 innings to fuel an improbable drive for the N.L. wild-card berth.

He’s coming off a career signature moment, a three-hit shutout against Roy Halladay that eliminated the favored Phillies in the N.L. division series.

Carpenter has been clutch throughout his career in the postseason, going 6-2 with a 2.94 ERA.

He pushed aside his friendship with Halladay for a 1-0 win in Game 5 of the N.L. division series, and will do his best to not allow Brewers animosity to affect him.

So, sorry, no feud. Just getting ready for a big start.

You can probably forget about the rally squirrel, too.

The Cardinals are capitalizing on the craze, giving 40,000 rally towels featuring a squirrel, but by Tuesday afternoon team officials had caught four of the critters.

“Are we still talking about that?” St. Louis’ Allen Craig said. “People are laughing at us. We’re talking about squirrels.”

Carpenter dismisses Greinke’s assessment, too.

“He doesn’t know me, he’s never been a teammate of mine, he can say what he wants,” Carpenter said.

“Every year, and every round of the playoffs, there’s distractions all around,” he said. “It can go from family stuff, clubhouse stuff, opponents, friendships, whatever it is. If you can’t eliminate that on your day, you’re going to have extra trouble.”