Phillies can't finish
PHILADELPHIA - The ultimate ace, it turned out, belonged to the St. Louis Cardinals .
Chris Carpenter tossed a three-hitter to outpitch old pal Roy Halladay in a duel for the ages and St. Louis edged the Philadelphia Phillies , 1-0, last night in the deciding Game 5 of their National League Division Series.
The wild-card Cardinals scored in the first inning when Rafael Furcal led off with a triple and Skip Schumaker followed with a double.
And that was it.
Heavily favored Philadelphia, a team with 102 wins that featured four accomplished aces in baseball’s best rotation, never broke through against Carpenter. Ryan Howard grounded out to end the game and hurt his leg coming out of the batter’s box - he limped a couple of steps and crumpled to the ground as St. Louis started to celebrate.
“It was some kind of fun,’’ Carpenter said.
The Cardinals needed a monumental collapse by Atlanta in the final month just to reach the playoffs. Now they’re heading to Milwaukee for the NL Championship Series starting tomorrow following a stunning upset in which they beat three of Philadelphia’s four aces: Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Roy Oswalt.
“Actually, I don’t know what to say,’’ Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “I just got through talking to our team, and basically when I look at it, we played 162 games, and definitely we had the best record in baseball.
“I know that we’re capable of going farther in the playoffs. Our goal was to get to the World Series. It’s been that way for two years now.’’
Carpenter was over 100 pitches when he took the mound in the ninth. He retired Chase Utley on a fly to the warning track in center and got Hunter Pence on a grounder.
Howard was next, and Carpenter got the big slugger to end a most improbable series win.
The loss meant the teams with the top two records and payrolls in the majors - the Phillies and Yankees - were gone in the first round, even while holding home-field advantage.
Carpenter walked none and struck out three in the matchup of Cy Young Award winners who were longtime teammates in Toronto.
Halladay was outstanding, too. Tagged by the first two batters, he allowed six hits overall, striking out seven in eight innings.