Halladay had survived a three-run first inning in Game 1 to earn the victory with eight solid innings. Carpenter had been roughed up for four runs in just three innings of work in Game 2, which he started on three days’ rest. Close friends from their days as fledgling, twenty-something teammates on the Toronto Blue Jays a decade ago, they faced each other Friday night for the first time, and they were brilliant.
No one keeps official count of broken bats in baseball, but there must have been a dozen of them, as Carpenter and Halladay threw sinkers like bowling balls, boring in on the hands of right-handed batters and snapping bats in two like pieces of kindling.
(Rob Carr/GETTY IMAGES) - Chris Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals reacts after final out.
(Matt Slocum/Associated Press) - Cardinals starting pitcher Chris Carpenter, right, reacts with relief pitcher Jason Motte in the clubhouse with after their 1-0 win.
“We just kept pounding [the ball] into the ground,” Phillies right fielder Hunter Pence said of Carpenter’s sinker.
After the second inning, only one runner reached scoring position against either pitcher — when the Phillies put runners on the corners with two outs against Carpenter. Ibanez sent a towering fly to deep right, but it died at the wall.
By the late innings, the nervous energy in the ballpark began to grow darker and more sinister. When Chase Utley was gunned down trying to steal second by Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (on a 73-mph curveball, no less) in the sixth, the stadium filled with grumbles and groans. And when Howard, who batted .105 in the series, flied out to right leading off the bottom of the seventh – on a 3-0 pitch from Carpenter – it drew more than a few boos.
Among the many problems confronting the Phillies is the fact Howard, whose five-year, $125 million extension doesn’t even kick in until next season, appears to be in decline, and now faces the possibility of a torn Achilles’ tendon.
Of course, Howard was good enough to hit 33 homers this season, Halladay was good enough to lead the league in complete games, and the Phillies were good enough to win 102 games. But the regular season was only supposed to be the vehicle to get the Phillies where they belong. They were built to win the World Series, but they won’t even get there.