Chris Carpenter shines as Cards blank Nats for 2-1 NLDS lead

Fitzgerald Cecilio – 4E Sports Reporter

Washington, DC, United States (4E Sports) – Chris Carpenter pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings and Pete Kozma hit a three-run shot in the fourth as the St. Louis Cardinals inched closer to the National League Championship Series with an 8-0 blanking of the Washington Nationals Wednesday at Nationals Park.

Carpenter (1-0), who successfully returned from a July surgery that was supposed to end his season, allowed seven hits and two walks with three strikeouts to clinch his franchise-best 10th postseason win and give the Cardinals a 2-1 lead in the NL Division Series.

The Cardinals’ bullpen then finished what Carpenter started, giving up no hit in 3 1/3 innings to ensure the win.

“They put some good at-bats on me to get my pitch count up and I was able to make pitches when I had to,” Carpenter said. “You come to this situation in the postseason, you just give it all you’ve got, as long as you can go, and then you throw it over to the bullpen, and they’ve done a great job, too.”

The Cardinals have a chance to advance to their fifth NL Championship Series in the past nine seasons Thursday with Kyle Lohse starting against Ross Detweiler.

“There’s no question it’s a big game. But every game’s a big game. We say that every day. It’s 2-1. We need to come out tomorrow and be ready to play,” Carpenter added. “We’re confident in [Game 4 starter] Kyle Lohse. We’re confident in our team. We’ll see what happens.”

The victory was the first for Carpenter since winning in Game 7 of the World Series. In the offseason, he was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome that needed a season-ending surgery. After the operation, Carpenter slowly worked his way back and started two games in September.

Staked to a 1-0 lead by Craig Allen’s RBI double, Carpenter had a rocky start, throwing 25 pitches in the first inning to finish five batters.

Working against Edwin Jackson, the Cardinals gave Carpenter a 4-0 cushion in the second frame after a three-run shot Kozma, who assumed shortstop duties after Rafael Furcal suffered a season-ending elbow injury.

“With Rafael Furcal going down, he’s been a great addition for us,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “He keeps getting big hits and making the plays in the field and everything you’d ask for a young player to do when he gets the opportunity.”

After Jackson (0-1) was pulled out with four earned runs on eight hits with four strikeouts in five frames, the Cardinals rocked Nationals relievers for five more runs.

David Freese doubled and scored on Daniel Descalso’s sixth-inning sacrifice fly against Craig Stammen.

Yadier Molina drew a bases-loaded walk from Christian Garcia in the seventh, which began with consecutive singles by Jon Jay and Carlos Beltran. Matt Holliday contributed a two-run single in the eighth against Ryan Mattheus.

Nationals rookie standout Bryce Harper continued his postseason slump, going 0-for-5. In the series, Harper is hitting just 1-for-15 with six strikeouts.

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