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Kevin Gray's On Baseball: The ace continues to amaze
October magic was missing for New Hampshire native Chris Carpenter, who lost for the third time in 17 postseason starts Monday night. There were bloopers and choppers, a Carpenter throwing error, and the Giants beat the Cardinals, 7-1, in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series.
Will the Cards’ big-game pitcher get another chance?
Carpenter, a Trinity High of Manchester graduate, owns a 10-3 postseason record (2.94 ERA) and has more October wins than any other pitcher in franchise history. (Yes, St. Louis legend Bob Gibson pitched only in the World Series, going 7-2, 1.89 ERA.) The best-of-seven series is now all square. The 37-year-old would be available to pitch Game 6 in San Francisco — if necessary — on five-plus days of rest.
“I can’t wait for him to get on the mound again. I hope that’s possible,” said Cardinals third baseman David Freese following Game 2 in which Carpenter worked four innings, allowing five runs, including a solo homer by Angel Pagan.
Former Red Sox infielder Marco Scutaro also hurt the St. Louis ace, ripping a two-out single in the fourth inning. Carpenter wasn’t as sharp as we’ve come to expect, but it was rather amazing to see him out there at all.
In one of sports’ most underplayed stories this year, Carpenter returned to pitch in September after having a rib removed in July. A top rib was removed, in addition to some muscle tissue, to alleviate pressure on a nerve and fix a nagging problem. The procedure, known as neurogenic thoracic outlet surgery, was something Carpenter had been considering since 2008 when his right shoulder and arm occasionally tingled or went numb. He dealt with the ongoing problem while hoisting the Cardinals onto his back last season and pitching them to the World Series title.
Great story. However, the folks at ESPN would rather talk about Tim Tebow than break down Carpenter’s amazing comeback this season.
“It’s incredible, him fighting back from surgery when maybe a lot of people were counting him out — maybe even himself. But he knew we had the opportunity to hang around in October,” Freese said.
Carpenter made no excuses following Game 2. He could have talked about easing back into the rotation and trying to make small improvements each outing. He could have focused on the bloopers and bad luck.
“They hit some balls off the end of the bat,” Carpenter said, “but it came to the point that I had an opportunity to make a pitch and get out of it, and I didn’t. Scutaro got me ... The fastball was not very good. But I continued to battle and did everything I could to give them a chance.”
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NLCS NOTES: San Francisco reliever Brian Wilson, a Londonderry High graduate, is scheduled to begin tossing a baseball next week — another step on the road back from reconstructive elbow surgery.
Wilson hasn’t pitched since April 12 but continues to make a positive impact on the Giants.
The 30-year-old has embraced his role as team cheerleader, pumping up teammates before the game or making them laugh during the most tense moments. In the division series against Cincinnati, Wilson yelled “You’re going down!” to a Reds ball boy in the deciding game.
All kidding aside, Wilson is giving a clinic on how to be a good teammate when you’re not in the game.
“The action of throwing a baseball is no more or no less important than the action of being a teammate,” Wilson told the New York Times. “Just because I’m not closing the ninth doesn’t mean I don’t have an intricate part in team chemistry. I’ve got positive energy, and, you know, maybe I can be of some help with some of the guys. If that one sentence that I say is encouraging and it helps that person perform better, then I think I’ve done my job.”
Concord native Brian Sabean, hired as Giants general manager in 1996, is the longest tenured GM in baseball. His teams have reached the postseason six times and made two trips to the World Series. In 2010, Sabean signed Cody Ross off waivers, and the outfielder eventually helped lead San Francisco over Texas in the Fall Classic.
Concord’s Joe Lefebvre, who serves as senior advisor of scouting, has worked in Sabean’s front office for the past four seasons. Lefebvre and Sabean, who were high school teammates for the Crimson Tide, have spent 16 seasons together with the Giants. Lefebvre, 54, has served also served as a minor-league coordinator and hitting coach. The 1977 Yankees draft pick played over six seasons in the majors.
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Information from MLB.com was used in this report. Staff writer Kevin Gray covers pro baseball for the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @graymatter11.