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Cards look to Carpenter to nail down World Series spot

6:06 AM, Oct 21, 2012   |    comments
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David Leon Moore
USA TODAY Sports

In the immediate aftermath of their 5-0 defeat Friday night at Busch Stadium, the St. Louis Cardinals were kicking themselves for playing right into soft-tossing left-hander Barry Zito's bag of tricks. Then they had a nice long flight to San Francisco during which they could keep telling themselves not to do the same thing against Ryan Vogelsong, the Giants' Game 6 starter.

Vogelsong beat the Cardinals in Game 2 of the series, keeping the St. Louis sluggers off-balance and allowing just four hits and one run in seven innings.Zito was even better in Game 5 Friday night, shutting out the Cardinals on six hits for 7 2/3 innings in a do-or-die victory that kept the Giants alive, with a Game 6 to be played Sunday in San Francisco's AT&T Park.

 

 

"We had a plan against Zito, and we just didn't execute it," Cardinals third baseman David Freese said. "He got us to swing at his pitches.

"Like Zito, Vogelsong (in Game 2) stayed out of the middle of the plate. We've got to work counts and take walks, and then capitalize when we get a pitch to hit.

"This game is all about hitting mistakes, especially in the postseason."

As in Game 2, Vogelsong will be opposed by veteran playoff ace Chris Carpenter, who remains a bit a question mark this postseason after missing most of the season with a right shoulder injury that caused him to have surgery July 19.

He just returned to action in late September.

In Game 2, Carpenter contributed to his demise by failing to make a play on a high bouncer, making a throw that an out-of-position Allen Craig could not catch at first base. That helped fuel a rally that eventually was climaxed by Marco Scutaro's bases-loaded single.

Carpenter took the blame for not making a better pitch to Scutaro.

But with a 10-3 record in 17 career playoff starts, Carpenter and the Cardinals will go into Sunday's game with confidence.

"We're excited to have Carp on the mound any time we can get him," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We know in big situations he comes up big for us.

"We also know they've got a guy throwing the ball extremely well that's going to be on the mound for them. We have to put a better game plan together than the last time and execute it."

Their failures against Zito should be fresh reminders.

"He brought all his stuff and shut us down," Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma said of Zito. "He had it working."

Kozma said he and his teammates were well aware the Giants weren't about to just roll over after falling behind 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.

"If you saw what they did against the Reds, winning three in a row, you know that we can't take anything lightly with these guys," he said.

St. Louis second baseman Daniel Descalso said what every team up 3-2 in a best-of-seven series has always said: "We're still in the driver's seat."

It's true. They are. Until they aren't.

Whether there's a Game 7 Monday could depend largely on the Cardinals improving their approach against Vogelsong.

Or on something else.

Like a pitcher making an error that opens the floodgates, as both Carpenter and Game 5 loser Lance Lynn have done.

Or a rookie unexpectedly replacing a star slugger and getting a game-turning two-run homer, as the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter did in Game 3.

"You just don't know," Freese said, "how things are going to unfold."

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