By R.B. Fallstrom/The Associated Press
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 (Ole Miss), 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 Edmonds 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.