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16 July 2010

The Second Half Begins In Positive Way for Cardinals, Carpenter

As Chris Carpenter breezed through the Los Angeles Dodgers line-up on Thursday night, all of Cardinal Nation gave a deep sigh of relief as well as celebrating the 7-1 victory.

The St. Louis right-hander had not been sharp since getting hit on his pitching arm by a line-drive in late June, but the veteran was efficient and in command for eight innings, only surrendering four hits and an Andre Ethier solo home run.  Carpenter struck out six, and has apparently corrected the mechanical flaws that had plagued his starts earlier in July as he did not walk a Dodger.

Carpenter was able to locate his curve, something that he has been unable to do his last two starts.  He had allowed 11 earned runs and 18 hits with 4 walks in only 9 innings during the July funk leading to fears among Cardinal fans that the former Cy Young winner was injured.  But the team insisted he was fine, and pitching coach Dave Duncan said just before the All-Star break that Carpenter's issues were in his delivery, specifically the way he was landing on his left leg.

So one great fear of the second half is eliminated right away.  Carpenter was masterful - crisp and efficient, getting out of innings with very few pitches.  And that was important on a typical St. Louis July night rampant with heat and humidity.  Carpenter only threw 101 pitches in his eight innings, but wasn't asked to do more in the muggy conditions, giving way to Mitchell Boggs who finished the game with no drama.

Another positive development was the Cardinal offense.  Dodger lefty Clayton Kershaw has bedeviled the Redbirds in the past, but he wasn't sharp tonight and St. Louis took advantage.  Albert Pujols had three hits, Yadier Molina and Aaron Miles added two each to the team total of 12.  The offense was able to string hits together and put runs on the scoreboard in four different innings.

The Cardinals recalled Allen Craig from Memphis to replace OF Nick Stavinoha, who went on the DL with a shoulder sprain.  Craig had 2 RBI and hit the ball hard, but did not record a hit.  Craig has only one hit hit in his 21 Major League career at-bats.  He was replaced in the sixth inning by another rookie, Jon Jay, who extended his 12-game hit streak with a RBI double in the seventh.  Jay continues to be a spark to the line-up, and he is now hitting .386 on the season.

With Cincinnati having the day off, St. Louis is only one-half game out of first.  With Carpenter back to being himself and the offense looking like it should, Cardinal fans are feeling a bit better about the team and the second half of the season.

Photo by Dilip Vishwanat, Getty Images Sport

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