By Rob Maaddi/The Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA — Chris Carpenter tossed a three-hitter to outpitch old pal Roy Halladay in a duel for the ages and the St. Louis Cardinals edged the Philadelphia Phillies 1-0 Friday night in the deciding Game 5 of their NL playoff series.
The wild-card Cardinals scored in the first inning when Rafael Furcal led off with a triple and Skip Schumaker followed with a double.
And that was it.
Heavily favored Philadelphia never broke through against Carpenter. Ryan Howard grounded out to end the game and hurt his leg coming out of the batter’s box — he limped a couple of steps and crumpled to the ground as St. Louis started to celebrate.
The Cardinals needed a monumental collapse by Atlanta in the final month and major help from the 102-win Phillies just to reach the playoffs. Now they’re heading to Milwaukee for the NL championship series starting Sunday following a stunning upset in which they beat three of Philadelphia’s four aces: Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt.
Three of baseball’s four opening-round matchups went to a deciding Game 5, and all of them were pitching-rich thrillers. Detroit held off the New York Yankees 3-2 on Thursday night, and Milwaukee beat Arizona in 10 innings earlier Friday.
Then, the showdown between Carpenter and Halladay topped them all.
Trailing two games to one, the Cardinals began their comeback with a win in Game 4. That night in St. Louis, a squirrel scampered across home plate as Schumaker batted in the middle innings — if the Cardinals keep winning, their fans will certainly go nuts, thanks to their “Rally Squirrel.”
Coincidentally, a squirrel was caught at Citizens Bank Park before Game 5. Not a good omen, apparently, for the Phillies.
Carpenter was over 100 pitches when he took the mound in the ninth. He retired Chase Utley on a fly to the warning track in center and got Hunter Pence on a grounder.
Howard was next, and Carpenter got the big slugger to end a most improbable series win.
Catcher Yadier Molina threw his mask toward the mound, Carpenter turned to the left of first looking for someone to celebrate with before his teammates finally got there, led by Albert Pujols. The congregation settled at second base, as just off to the right, while Howard was carried off the field and into his dugout.