ST. LOUIS -- It was just after 11 o'clock in Bedford, N.H., and at Slammers, which bartender Ed Schunemann figures is the only sports bar in the town of about 20,000 just outside of Manchester, the TV was tuned to the World Series.
But if the town was toasting the performance of its most celebrated resident, folks evidently were doing so in the privacy of their own homes.
"We were busy earlier," Schunemann said, "but there aren't too many people here now. Let's see, one, two ... maybe, five, six people."
About a thousand miles and a time zone away, a much larger crowd at Busch Stadium -- 46,513 folks, almost all of whom were wrapped in red and yelling themselves hoarse -- stuck around for the end of what may have been Chris Carpenter's finest hour in a baseball uniform.
Denied the chance to pitch the last time the Cardinals were in the World Series (2004) by a nerve condition in his right biceps, Carpenter, only the fourth native son of the Granite State to pitch in a Series game and the third to win one, did not let this occasion pass without giving his neighbors and anyone else watching something to remember him by.
Carpenter, who was all-state in baseball and hockey at Trinity High in Manchester, gave up three singles in eight innings and did not allow a runner past first base after the second as he pitched the Cardinals to a 5-0 win over the Detroit Tigers that gave the home team a 2-games-to-1 lead in the 102d World Series.
"Missing '04 was big," Carpenter said, who was a spectator when the Cardinals were swept by the Red Sox. "I obviously wanted to be a part of it. But I'm not looking back at '04. It feels great, obviously, but we've got a long way to go."
Carpenter, who threw just 82 pitches and would have pitched the ninth if he hadn't been forced to sit through a long Cardinals' turn in the bottom of the inning, did not go to a three-ball count. "When Chris is on, he has the ability to shut you down," said Tigers first baseman Sean Casey, who singled in the eighth but was immediately erased on a double play. "Anybody. You could have the greatest lineup out there and it doesn't matter when he's on.
"I've seen days like this a couple of times before. That's why he's Cy Young. That's why he's the best pitcher in baseball."
Carpenter, asked if he's heard of Slammers, said, "The pool place? Yeah."
Been in there? "No."
Tigers manager Jim Leyland said after his team won Game 2 that he was going to make closer Todd Jones take pitcher's fielding practice before he got on the bus that night, after Jones's ninth-inning bobble had imperiled the victory. Leyland might want setup man Joel Zumaya to join Jones. Zumaya's wild throw to third base led to two unearned runs in the seventh, when the Cardinals scored twice without the benefit of a hit.
The Tigers' task does not promise to get any easier tonight, when they face righthander Jeff Suppan, who was MVP of the NLCS after holding the powerful Mets to a run and five hits in 15 innings over two starts. The last time the Tigers were shut out in a World Series game was 1968, when Hall of Famer Bob Gibson blanked them, 4-0, in the opener.
"You know, the best compliment we can give him is we've seen him do this the last two or three years over and over again," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "He's so strong between the ears, nothing fazes him. He has a great game, he gets ready for the next one. Besides the physical talent, he's got a good head, good heart, good guts."
But even before Carpenter left his hitters numb, Leyland had openly mocked at the idea of the Cardinals being the underdogs in this series.
"I'm tired of hearing about what a favorite we are, and how the Cardinals, they're happy with one win," Leyland had said on the offday. "Let me tell you something about the Cardinals. They've got one of the greatest, and some people think, the best defensive third baseman of all time [Scott Rolen]. They've got the best young player in all of baseball [Albert Pujols]. They've got a Gold Glove center fielder [Jim Edmonds], a great player. They've got a Cy Young pitching [Carpenter]. They've got the All-American baseball player at shortstop [David Eckstein]. They also have probably the best young catcher in baseball [Yadier Molina].
"This is a great team."
The Tigers are certainly making them look like one.
"One day at a time, man. Don't talk to me about tomorrow," said Pujols, whose ground-rule double in the fourth keyed the Cardinals' two-run uprising against loser Nate Robertson.
Temperature at gametime was 43, a degree colder than it was in Detroit on Game 2, but both starting pitchers began the game splotch-free. Just in case either was inclined to emulate Kenny "DirtBall" Rogers, one spectator in Busch Stadium held up a sign that admonished, "Employees must wash their hands before leaving the dugout."
Lefthanders have given the Cardinals fits this season. They were 23-34 against lefthanded starters during the regular season, better than only the bottom-feeder Pirates (13-36) in the National League.
But it was a lefthanded hitter who struggled mightily against lefties, Edmonds, who grounded a two-run double down the right-field line when the Cardinals took that 2-0 lead in the fourth. Edmonds had gone hitless in nine previous at-bats before drawing a two-out walk in the second. He came to the plate in the fourth after Preston Wilson, who entered the game 5 for 5 lifetime against Robertson, lined a single to open the inning and Pujols reached out and hit his opposite-field drive to right that skipped into the stands for the ground-rule double.
Robertson fell behind the next batter, Rolen, which brought Leyland out of the dugout for a visit. Robertson wound up walking Rolen to load the bases, bringing up Ronnie Belliard. He was batting in the 5-hole because Juan Encarnacion, who had batted cleanup in the NLCS when the Cardinals faced lefties, hadn't gotten the ball out of the infield in seven Series at-bats and was batting just .186 in the postseason, prompting La Russa to bench him in favor of Wilson.
Like Wilson, Belliard had success (8 for 25, .320) against Robertson, which was sufficient cause for La Russa to bat him fifth for the first time since he'd come to the Cardinals at the trading deadline. Belliard hit a sharp one-hopper to third baseman Brandon Inge near the bag, but Inge went right home, nearly drawing catcher Pudge Rodriguez off the plate with a high throw, but getting the force.
But Edmonds, who batted just .156 against lefties this season, whacked a 2-and-2 offering from Robertson, the ball skipping into the right-field corner as Pujols and Rolen scored. Molina was given an intentional walk, reloading the bases, but Robertson induced So Taguchi to pop to short and Carpenter to foul to first baseman Casey.
The Cardinals threatened again in the fifth when Eckstein, 0 for 11 in the Series, grounded a single up the middle and took second on Rolen's two-out base hit. But Belliard, contradicting the numbers again, took a called third strike from Robertson, who was replaced by lefty Wilfredo Ledezma to start the sixth.
Ledezma struck out Edmonds, but then gave up a double to Molina. Leyland went to his pen again for Zumaya, who hadn't pitched since Game 1 of the ALCS because of a sprained wrist. Zumaya punched out Taguchi with a pitch that took a precipitous drop out of the zone, then retired Carpenter on a fly to end the inning.