Chris Carpenter missed nearly the entire regular season after having a bizarre surgery to remove a rib, and he threw just 17 innings over his three starts prior to the playoffs.
But the Cardinals won't put any limit on their veteran right-hander today as he pitches in Game 3 of the best-of-five National League Division Series.
"We plan on going in and just watch him as he goes," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said today. "And he's a pretty fair evaluator of himself as well. But we anticipate going as long as it looks good."
The Nationals won't have a lot of videotape from this season to work off when it comes to Carpenter, but they know what he's all about.
"He's a big game pitcher," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "The thing that we go over with our hitters is he likes to pound the strike zone with both pitches, and when he gets ahead, he likes to start it in the strike zone and have you chase it out of the zone. So we just need to be patient and be ready early."
Carpenter went 0-2 with a 3.71 ERA in his three starts this season, but he's excelled in the postseason over his career, going 9-2 with a 3.05 ERA in 15 playoff starts. Overall, the Cardinals are 12-3 in Carpenter's postseason starts, the best team winning percentage for a starter in MLB history with a minimum of 10 starts.
In his career against the Nats, Carpenter is 6-1 with a 3.39 ERA in 12 starts.
The Cardinals didn't expect the 37-year-old to be able to return for the playoffs this year, but he could be a real ace in the hole for them, so to speak, if he's on his A-game today.
Fans at Nats Park for today's game will be treated to a couple cool pregame sights. Four F-16 fighters will give a flyover at the end of the national anthem, and Frank Robinson, the first manager of the Nationals after their relocation to D.C. and a Hall of Fame outfielder, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Johnson played with Robinson with the Orioles from 1966-71 and has maintained a close relationship with his former teammate.
"One of the greatest players I've ever been associated with," Johnson said. "You know, I always - when I think of Frank Robinson, I think of the first time I ever saw him, he came into spring training, and we had a game going on in Miami. Said, 'You want an at bat?' He said, 'Yeah,' and went and got his uni on. Had not had batting practice or nothing, and I remember it like it was yesterday, he hit one out of the ballpark, and all of us turned to each other and said, 'We've got something here.'
"And of course, he went on to win the Triple Crown (in 1966). Plays the game hard, plays the game right and he was a big influence on me and the whole ballclub. We had a pretty good run with him there. I respect him and I think a lot of him. I think he's been just an outstanding example of a true professional."