"I don't take anything for granted anymore," he said. Since then, pitching for the Cardinals and including the postseason, he is 56-19, a .747 winning percentage. He is 5-1 with a 2.53 ERA in the postseason, St. Louis having won seven of his eight starts.
So good was Carpenter that the game essentially ended with two runs in the fourth inning. After Preston Wilson began the inning with the first hit off Nate Robertson, a single, the Detroit lefthander tried to throw a backdoor slider to Pujols on a 3-and-1 count.
"The ball slipped," Robertson said. "I didn't have a grip on it."
The slider hung off the plate, and Pujols smacked it into the rightfield corner for a double. Three batters later Jim Edmonds turned on a fastball, grounding it into that same rightfield corner for a double and a 2-0 St. Louis lead.
The Cardinals added two cosmetic runs in the seventh, turning two walks from Joel Zumaya into two runs when Zumaya, trying for a force at third base, made an errant throw that sailed far wide of Inge.
No matter. The Tigers never mounted a threat against Carpenter, never interrupted his clinical precision in working his pitches on the corners of the plate. "My breaking ball was good, my cutting ball was good, I made my changeups," he said. "Just a few pitches were left in the middle of the plate, and one was hit for an out."
Carpenter would not smile over such an efficient night, nor would he care to place it in historical context. Such admiration was left to the rest of us. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, for instance, Carpenter was the first Cardinals pitcher to pitch at least eight innings into a postseason game with no walks and no more than three hits allowed. And only two pitchers, both of whom are headed for the Hall of Fame, had done so in the previous 20 World Series: Greg Maddux (1995) and Roger Clemens (2000). It was a signature game for Carpenter, putting him in the company of greats as only October can.
GAME 4 at St. Louis
CARDINALS 5, TIGERS 4
Should you ever lose your faith in baseball, or simply the belief that what is possible is limited only by your imagination, just roll the tape of Eckstein batting against Zumaya in the eighth inning of a tied World Series Game 4. What is most beautiful about baseball--its timeless democracy, giving opportunity to all--was reaffirmed in that one Series-changing at bat. It defined not only Eckstein but also an entire Cardinals team that had rebounded from a near-historic September collapse all the way to within one win from the franchise's first world championship in almost a quarter of a century.
"He's the heart and soul of this ball club," second baseman Aaron Miles said.
Eckstein is 5' 7", 165 pounds, as clean-scrubbed as a Cub Scout at inspection, and was let go by the Angels after the 2004 season. Zumaya is 6' 3", is charitably listed at 210 pounds, wears a flame tattoo on his left arm and a menacing goatee on his chin, sports a bloodshot right eye and throws a baseball harder than any man alive.