The 10 best games of 2011 (as viewed by me) – #9 – NLDS Game 5: St. Louis Cardinals vrs. Philadelphia Phillies, October 7, 2011

When it comes to baseball there is nothing better than the deciding game of a playoff series that pits the team’s two aces against each other.  That’s exactly what happened when the Phillies’ Roy Halladay and the Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter faced off in the deciding Game 5 of the 2011 National League Divisional Series.  The game was played in Philadelphia, home of the 102 win Phillies who had the best record in the majors in 2011.  The Cardinals snuck into the playoffs on the last day of the season after the Braves collapsed in September.  None of that was going to matter this night though, whoever won moved on to the NLCS and whoever lost went home for the winter.

Carpenter came out on fire and never let up

The Cardinals jumped all over Halladay in the bottom of the 1st inning.  Rafael Furcal hit a leadoff triple and then Skip Schumaker followed up with a double that scored Furcal.  The Cardinals went up 1-0 after just two hitters.  Halladay worked out of the jam, getting Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, and Yadier Molina all to leave the man on 2nd base.  Carpenter was flawless in the first, retiring Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Hunter Pence 1-2-3.  Halladay settled down in the 2nd, retiring David Freese, Nick Punto, and Carpenter in order himself.  The Phillies got their first hit in the bottom of the 2nd when Shane Victorino hit a one out double but the Phillies couldn’t push him across.  Halladay continued to put the 1st inning behind him by putting down the top 3rd of the Cards lineup 1-2-3 in the 3rd.  Carpenter continued to pitch flawlessly with a 1-2-3 inning of his own.  Through three it was 1-0 St. Louis.  Halladay had given up two hits in the first and Carpenter had only surrendered one hit, the Victorino double.

After giving up a run in the first Halladay matched Carpenter batter for batter

Both pitchers worked around jams in the 4th inning.  After Halladay retired Lance Berkman and Holliday to start off the 4th inning Yadier Molina singled and stole 2nd.  David Freese struck out to leave Molina at there.  Carpenter led off the 4th by hitting Utley but Utley was erased on a fielder’s choice by Pence.  Ryan Howard lined out to 2nd but Victorino followed up with a single to right to put runners on the corners with 2 outs.  Carpenter got Raul Ibanez to fly out to right to end the inning and strand the runners.  Halladay faced the minimum again the the 5th when Chris Carpenter bunted into a double play with Punto on first and nobody out.  Carpenter settled down after a few shaky innings and set down the Phillies 1-2-3 in his end of the 5th.  Halladay was on point in the top of the 6th, getting Jon Jay, Pujols, and Berkman to go down 1-2-3.  After Carpenter got Jimmy Rollins to lead off the 6th Utley hit a sharp ground ball off of Pujols’ glove and into right field.  With Pence up at the plate Utley tried to get something going on the base paths but was quickly gunned down by Yadier Molina and the fireman’s hose he has on his right arm.  Pence grounded out to quietly end the inning.  It was still 1-0 after 6 innings.

Halladay was still going in the top of the 7th.  He got Holliday and Molina out to record the first two outs but Freese singled to extend the inning.  He then struck Nick Punto out to end the inning.  It was Carpenter’s turn in the 7th and the Phillies were starting to get desperate.  They began to press and were no match for Carpenter’s sinking fastball as he retired Howard, Victorino, and Ibanez 1-2-3 in the 7th, the latter of two on ground ball outs.  Carpenter decided to try and help himself in the top of the 8th with a sharp leadoff single off of Halladay.  There would be no pinch runner, Carpenter threw on a jacket and prepared to run the bases.  Rafeal Furcal hit a dribbler in front of home plate but Carlos Ruiz botched the throw to 2nd and everybody was safe.  The first two guys were on and the Phillies were hanging by a thread.  Jon Jay laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to put guys on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out and the 3-4-5 hitters coming up.  Pujols wasn’t going to swing the bat, they walked him to load the bases with one out.  Halladay got Berkman to strike out and then Holliday to fly out to left field to end the inning and strand the bases loaded.  The Phillies needed just one run to tie it, two would win it for them.  Carpenter led off the 8th by inducing two more weak ground balls by Placido Polanco and Carlos Ruiz.  Ross Gload came in to pinch hit for Halladay and struck out but reached first on a passed ball, leaving hope for the Phillies.  Rollins ended the inning by lining the ball right back to Carpenter.  Ryan Madson came in relief of Halladay and promptly set down the Cardinals 1-2-3 setting up the showdown between the Phillies all-star 2-3-4 hitters and  Carpenter, who had been near flawless.  A spot in the National League Championship series hung in the balance.

Howard lay on the field in pain as the Cards celebrated

Chase Utley flew out to center field for the 1st out.  Carpenter was two outs away.  The next batter was Hunter Pence.  Carpenter had nasty stuff all day.  He wasn’t striking anyone out, he only had three strikeouts all game, but his stuff was downright nasty.  His biting sinking fastball had the Phillies hitters swinging at the ground.  It had resulted in 14 ground ball outs out of the 25 outs already recorded by Carpenter.  Now it was Pence and slugger Ryan Howard.  Pence grounded out to third baseman David Descalso for the second out of the inning.  Carpenter was one out away and Ryan Howard was coming to the plate.  He flailed at a Carpenter fastball and softly hit it to second baseman Nick Punto.  Howard didn’t even make it to first, he had torn his ACL in his effort to get out of the box.  He seethed on the ground in pain as the Cardinals players celebrated around Carpenter.

Carpenter and the Cards celebrated in Philadelphia

The game ended the season for the Phillies, who were a disappointment after winning 102 games during the regular season.  The Cardinals would go on to play the Brewers in the National League Championship series.  It was equally impressive for them to make it to the 2nd round after they had backed into the playoffs thanks to a collapse by the Braves.  But this game was all about the pitching.  It was about Halladay and Carpenter.  A lot of times when you get these sort of match ups in the playoffs they fail to live up to the hype.  But this one lived up to it and more.  Halladay was outstanding for 8 innings after giving up the leadoff hits to Furcal and Schumaker that produced the only runs in the game.  Carpenter, on the other hand, was basically flawless.  It was the one of the best postseason pitching performances that I had seen in a decade.  It wasn’t bad for a guy who had been oft-injured for much of the past few seasons and had only won 11 games in the regular season.  But this was Carpenter’s night.  He put the Cardinals on his back and brought them to the NLCS and eventually to the World Series.

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About evonsports
30 year old sports enthusiast and aspiring writer from Boston.

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