Chris Carpenter tries to give the St. Louis Cardinals a commanding lead in the National League Championship Series on Monday when they play Game 2 against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park.
St. Louis wrestled home-field advantage away from the Giants with a win in Game 1 thanks in part to a tremendous effort from its bullpen. That relief corps, though, may not be needed on Monday with Carpenter on the hill.
Carpenter missed most of the regular season with a shoulder injury, but returned to make three starts at the end of the year, going 0-2 with a 3.71 ERA. The former Cy Young Award winner was on point, though, in his NLDS start against the Washington Nationals, as he scattered seven hits over 5 2/3 scoreless innings to run his postseason record to 10-2 to go along with a 2.88 ERA.
"He's a competitor like I've never seen," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "The guy just finds a different gear when it becomes his turn to do something special. That's why we were so excited as we watched him throw a couple of (bullpen sessions), just the thought of down the stretch, what he would mean to us. And it proved itself true -- not just with what he was doing on the mound."
Carpenter is 4-1 with a 3.57 ERA in eight career starts against the Giants, winning both previous outings at AT&T Park.
St. Louis grabbed the upper hand in the series on Sunday, as David Freese and Carlos Beltran each hit a two-run homer in the Cardinals' 6-4 triumph.
Lance Lynn got the start for St. Louis and surrendered four runs on five hits and two walks over 3 2/3 innings, but six relievers combined to allow just two hits and a pair of walks the rest of the way.
Edward Mujica (1-0) struck out the side in a perfect inning of relief to earn the win, while Jason Motte worked a scoreless ninth inning to record the save.
"We've got a good bullpen, a strong bullpen, and we have to be ready," Mujica said. "We have to be ready in different situations, no matter what situations. If the starters go four or five, just try to pick them up."
Madison Bumgarner (0-2) was touched for six runs on eight hits and a walk through 3 2/3 frames to take the loss for San Francisco, which also saw its bullpen toss 5 1/3 hitless innings, but still fell to 0-3 at home in these playoffs.
"We had our guy out there. He just didn't have his good stuff and he made a couple mistakes," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said about Bumgarner.
Bochy now turns to righty Ryan Vogelsong, whose 2.86 ERA at home was a full run better than this road ERA. Vogelsong went 14-9 this past season and pitched to a 3.37 ERA. He was 7-4 at AT&T Park.
"Well, it's no secret, I've said in the past, that I definitely feed off the energy that this crowd brings," Vogelsong said Sunday. "I'm sure it's going to be pretty intense (Monday) night. It's pretty intense on a regular-season game here in the middle of June."
Vogelsong pitched well in his NLDS start against the Cincinnati Reds, but did not get a decision, despite allowing a run and three hits in five innings of his team's 2-1 win.
"Surprisingly I wasn't nervous," Vogelsong said. "And that worried me a little bit, because in the past when I've been in some not quite as big games as that, but throughout the regular season and a little bit last year and some stuff in the past with me in Japan, the nerves are usually good. And I didn't have any, really. I was a little worried about that."
Vogelsong tossed seven scoreless innings to beat the Cardinals the last time he faced them, but is just 2-4 in 16 appearances (6 starts) against them with a 6.51 ERA.
Over the past 20 years, the club that won the first game of the NLCS has advanced to the World Series all but four times. There have been 18 teams who have taken a 2-0 lead in the NLCS and 16 have gone on to win it.
Add in the American League's history, and 2-0 teams are 35-for-40 in the LCS.
San Francisco has played the Cardinals twice before in the playoffs. St. Louis edged the Giants in a thrilling seven-game series in 1987, but San Francisco got its revenge in 2002 with a five-game win in the LCS.
This is the first matchup between the two previous World Series winners since the New York Yankees and Milwaukee Braves dueled in the 1958 Fall Classic.