ST. LOUIS — Albert Pujols hit an RBI double during a four-run first inning and the St. Louis bullpen bailed out Chris Carpenter as the Cardinals beat the Milwaukee Brewers 4-3 Wednesday night for a 2-1 edge in the NL championship series.
In a matchup of aces, neither Carpenter nor 17-game Yovani Gallardo made it past the fifth. The one-run lead Carpenter handed over was just enough, as four relievers combined for four perfect innings.
Fernando Salas, Lance Lynn, Marc Rzepczynski and Jason Motte shut down the Brewers to close out the victory. Motte, who had two saves lasting more than inning in September, got four outs for this save and fanned pinch hitter Casey McGehee to end it.
Carpenter won his seventh postseason game to tie Bob Gibson’s franchise record, but with none of the brilliance of his three-hit shutout over Roy Halladay and the favored Phillies in the deciding game of the division series. He lasted only five innings, with nearly half of his 89 pitches for balls.
The starters’ ineffectiveness was surprising considering their track records.
Carpenter has been clutch throughout his career in the postseason, going 7-2 with a 3.14 ERA in 12 games. Gallardo allowed only two runs in 21 innings, a minuscule 0.86 ERA, before Game 3.
Kyle Lohse, pitching on 12 days’ rest, starts Game 4 Thursday for the wild-card Cardinals against Randy Wolf.
The Cardinals batted around against Gallardo in the first. Pujols delivered an RBI double after starring in a Game 2 win with a home run and three doubles.
St. Louis had its chances to break away later, but hit into three double plays and stranded nine runners.
Mark Kotsay started ahead of slumping Nyjer Morgan and homered for the Brewers. Yuniesky Betancourt had two singles and an RBI and Gallardo, a .221 hitter with a homer and four RBIs, had a sacrifice fly in the second.
Jon Jay and David Freese added RBI doubles in the first for St. Louis, which was 3 for 4 with runners in scoring position to start the game but 0 for 7 the rest of the way.
Gallardo, who’s 1-7 with a 5.66 career mark against the Cardinals, trailed 2-0 after his first 12 pitches and barely made it out of the first trailing 4-0. The right-hander walked three, one of them intentional, and the Brewers had Chris Narveson up in the bullpen before Yadier Molina grounded into a double play, scoring the fourth run, for his first outs.
Gallardo trudged to the dugout after his 33-pitch ordeal.
Luckily for the Brewers, Carpenter didn’t have his “A” game, either. By the third, the lead was down to one run.
The Cardinals’ ace walked none in his brilliant three-hit shutout in Game 5 of the NLDS, but had a walk and a hit batsman in the Brewers’ first three plate appearances.
Carpenter escaped with help from Kotsay, who strayed too far off second on Prince Fielder’s lineout to center and was doubled off the bag by Jay’s strong throw to end the inning. But Carpenter didn’t look comfortable in the second or third, either.
The Brewers opened the second with three straight singles with Betancourt getting the RBI. Gallardo, who batted .221 with a homer and four RBIs this season, added a sacrifice fly that cut the deficit to 4-2.
Kotsay got a spot start, partly because he’s 4 for 11 against Carpenter. Kotsay hit his second career postseason homer leading off the third. Morgan flied out to start the seventh as a pinch hitter and was roundly booed throughout the at-bat.
NOTES: Hall of Famer Stan Musial made a pregame appearance at home plate via golf cart, and was flanked by fellow Cardinals Hall of Famers Bob Gibson, Lou Brock and Red Schoendienst. … Two stars from the Cardinals’ 2006 World Series title team collaborated on the first pitch. Jeff Suppan, the NLCS MVP that year, threw to injured pitcher Adam Wainwright, who got the last out of the ‘06 NLCS when he froze the Mets’ Carlos Beltran for a called third strike. Suppan played his last seven seasons with the Cardinals and Brewers. … Pujols has 16 postseason walks, moving past Jim Edmon ds for the franchise record. … Betancourt singled his first two trips and had been on a 10-for-18 run before a flyout in the sixth.
LOHSE EAGER FOR START:Kyle Lohse thinks pitching on 12 days’ rest should not be a problem.
Scheduled to start Game 4 of the NL championship series for St. Louis, the right-hander hasn’t pitched since the opener of the division series in Philadelphia on Oct. 1. He couldn’t hold an early 3-0 lead in that game, giving up six runs — five earned — in 5 1-3 innings of an 11-6 loss.
Lohse’s turn didn’t come up again in the NLDS, and Cardinals manager Tony La Russa opted to go with Jaime Garcia and Edwin Jackson in the first two games of the NLCS in Milwaukee and ace Chris Carpenter in Game 3.
Lohse has some experience with long layoffs this season — with mostly good results. He went from July 8-19 without a start, returning with a 4-2 loss to the Mets in which he gave up four earned runs in 5 2-3 innings. He had an extended gap from Aug. 4-12, then gave up one earned run in 6 1-3 innings in a 6-1 win over Colorado. And he returned after eight days off on Sept. 6 to throw six shutout innings in a 4-2 win over the Brewers.
“I’ve been able to deal with it pretty well,” Lohse said.
He acknowledged things were a little different this time because he was available in the bullpen in the final games of the series with the Phillies.
“But I’ve just tried to stay sharp, throwing flat grounds,” Lohse said. “I’m doing everything I can to keep myself mentally prepared and that’s about all you can do.”
Lohse has plenty of postseason experience but is still seeking his first win. He pitched in the division series for Minnesota (2002, 2003 and 2004), Philadelphia (2007) and St. Louis, going 0-3 with a 4.82 ERA. He has never pitched in the NLCS or World Series.
This season marked a return to form for Lohse after two mostly lost seasons after taking a ball off his pitching arm in 2009. Lohse had surgery in May 2010, a procedure that he said was never performed on a major league player. He was 14-8 with a 3.39 ERA in a bounce-back 2011.
“I don’t have the same zip on my fastball, but I’ve learned how to control it, how to move it around a little better, and I think a lot of that is due to the recovery process and the mentality that I had to take out there after the surgery,” he said.
SEATING CONCERNS: A Major League Baseball official insists there was no gamesmanship involved when relatives of Brewer players arrived at Busch Stadium to find seats down the right field line, a less-than-desireable location.
The visiting players’ wives and children sit closer to the middle of the ballpark during the regular season. But wives and kids of the Brewers arrived Wednesday to find their approximate 150 seats in a suite down the line beyond first base, much to their dismay. Some complained to their husbands.
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke admitted it was a minor distraction, but a distraction nonetheless.
“You know, it was a little bit of a concern,” he said. “I think they cleaned it up OK. I don’t know exactly. But you know, it’s little distractions that certainly I don’t want players to have to worry about.”
MLB senior vice president Katy Feeney explained that because of season ticket priorities, the Cardinals moved the families to luxury boxes in the outfield, just as they did for the Phillies in the first round, for the Dodgers in 2009 and for the 2009 All-Star game.
She said the families are staying in connected suites. “The kids can run around,” she said. “They still get food and drinks.”
The Brewers also had another 200 tickets spread around the stadium in groups of 2s and 4s, for front office personnel, friends of players and other guests.