I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, and by each and every measure, Chris Carpenter exceeded my wildest expectations with his start today against the Pirates, even collecting the win after the Cards lineup rallied behind some pinch hitters in the bottom of the seventh inning.
But could Carp’s start have been better? Hard to imagine, I know, but hear me out.
Albert Pujols continued his string (I say string because I’m going back to last night and not stepping on first before throwing to second for a tag-em double play) of baffling defensive decisions by trying to throw out Ramon Vasquez at second base on Ross Ohlendorf’s bunt in the third inning. This led to the Pirates’ only run when on the next play, Albert chose to throw home to attempt to get Vasquez rather than taking the grounder to the bag for an out. Admittedly, the ball was scorched at Albert and he had to scramble back to his feet, no guarantee he would’ve beat the speedy Nyjer Morgan to the bag.
Ever the battler, Carpenter proceeded to get out of the inning with a strikeout and a ground-out. But let’s presumptively consider Albert throwing to first on the bunt, allowing him to make the smart, easy play at first on Morgan’s ground ball – that gets the Cards out of the inning.
But that’s not what happened – and it “cost” Carpenter six more pitches.
Fast forward to the seventh inning, and learning-on-the-job second baseman Skip Schumaker fields a ground ball from Brandon Moss tailor-made for a double-play. Skip throws a bit wide, and they only get the lead runner at second. Vasquez singles just past Schumaker during the next at-bat to break up Carpenter’s no-hitter.
Nine more pitches (including Vasquez’ at-bat) were necessary for Carpenter to get out of the inning, as he battled back to strike out Jack Wilson to end the Pirates’ half of the seventh.
Carpenter threw 92 pitches on the day in his seven innings of stellar work. Arguably, and clearly assumptively, he threw fifteen more pitches than he needed to, because the Cards’ defense let him down a bit.
Take those fifteen pitches away and he’s got 77 pitches thrown after finishing up the seventh inning. Surely Tony LaRussa allows him to go back out there for the eighth then, right?
Turn the double play in the seventh inning, and Carp still has a no-hitter going into the eighth inning, with only 77 pitches thrown. Surely Tony LaRussa allows him to go back out there for the eighth then, right?
Again, much of this discussion is presumptive – who’s to know how things would’ve turned out “if”. But much has been made of the supposed decline of the Cards’ defense this season, is this how it will manifest itself? What if Carp hadn’t been able to overcome these things today?
Great start today for Chris Carpenter – here’s hoping his defense bails him out this season at some point like he did for them today.
Oh yeah, and Al Hrabosky – you’re not supposed to talk about a pitcher’s no-hitter-in-progress while it’s still IN PROGRESS. You know better…