CHICAGO -- In a very strange season for Chris Carpenter, it took a very strange game for the right-hander to pick up his first win.
Carpenter was dinged for a career-high 13 base hits over seven innings but still was credited with the victory as the Cardinals beat the Cubs, 6-4, at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night. Daniel Descalso's two-out, two-run single in the top of the eighth broke a tie and improved Carpenter to 1-2.
Every one of the hits against Carpenter was a single, many of them of the unlucky sort (at least from the pitcher's perspective). Carpenter sustained a month's worth of dying quails and ground balls with eyes, all on one night.
"Things happen when you put the ball in play, and they were able to put the ball in play tonight and get some balls to fall in," Carpenter said.
Carpenter's stuff was quite strong. His command was somewhat erratic, however, especially early. Still, he survived and kept the Cards in position to win the first 2011 meeting between the two old rivals.
Albert Pujols beat out an infield hit to start the winning rally against Kerry Wood, one of four base hits on the night for the three-time MVP. Matt Holliday walked, and a Lance Berkman liner advanced both runners. The Cubs chose to walk Yadier Molina, bringing up Nick Punto, who lined to left for the second out. But Descalso dropped a single into right field for the winning runs, sticking Wood with the defeat.
"He made a pretty tough pitch, and I was able to stay short on it and get it into right field," Descalso said. "He's got good stuff. He made a couple good pitches up there. I was just trying to battle, trying to get something I could put the barrel on. I was able to just pull my hands in enough and get it out to the outfield."
Miguel Batista pitched an eventful but ultimately harmless eighth, aided by a tremendous catch by Jon Jay on Blake DeWitt's line drive. Eduardo Sanchez finished it off with his fourth save in as many opportunities.
The difference between the two clubs on a wild night at the venerable ballpark was efficiency on offense. The Cardinals put a runner on base in six innings, and scored in four. The Cubs had a man on base in all nine innings, and scored in two of them. Carpenter dodged trouble all night, while the Cards were able to come up with pivotal hits. St. Louis also benefited from a couple of Cubs defensive miscues.
"You have to keep swinging," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "There's a lot of ways to win a game. You score runs, you pitch it, you play defense, you make plays. ... When you're playing at this level you need to make the plays, but you certainly do with a club this good offensively and this good in general. You just can't give them extra opportunities. When you get a chance, you have to cash in."
St. Louis was playing without manager Tony La Russa, who will rest for the next week as he recuperates from a persistent case of shingles. Bench coach Joe Pettini served as interim manager, though the managerial duties were divided up among the Cardinals' coaching staff.
Carpenter battled inconsistent command to last seven mostly effective innings, but he could only keep the Cubs at bay for so long. Many of the 13 hits were rolling ground balls or bloopers, but finally there were enough of them to draw blood.
Chicago hung two runs on Carpenter in the first inning but was kept quiet for the next five. In the seventh, though, Carpenter could hold the Cubs off no longer. A sacrifice fly and an RBI single tied the game -- but only briefly, as St. Louis responded in the next half-inning.
"It was a battle from the first on," Carpenter said. "I felt like I threw the ball pretty well. My stuff was pretty good. At times I got some balls up, but for the most part, I felt like it was just a weird, weird game. I thought I threw the ball all right."
The offense came from all over the lineup for the Cardinals. Holliday's RBI single put them on the board in the first, and back-to-back extra-base hits from Molina and Punto turned a one-run deficit into a 3-2 lead in the fourth. Punto was called for leaving too early on an apparent sacrifice fly in that inning, but replays appeared to indicate that he didn't. Ryan Theriot's sac fly made it 4-2 in the seventh before Chicago tied the game.
The Cardinals improved to 21-15, a season-best six games over .500. They lead second-place Cincinnati by one game in the National League Central.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.