ST. LOUIS -- Momentum in baseball is bunk. Ask the Cardinals.
If ever a team looked like all of its momentum had vanished, it was the Cardinals on Thursday. Bad news followed by two bad games had the Redbirds at one of their lowest points of the year. So, of course, they turned in one of their best wins of the year, blowing out the Phillies by a 12-2 score behind a vintage Chris Carpenter and offensive contributions from all over the lineup.
The Cardinals had been reeling on and off the field for three days. On Monday, they learned they would be without Albert Pujols for six weeks. On Tuesday, they saw a late lead and a possible win over Roy Halladay disintegrate thanks to a bullpen meltdown. On Wednesday, they were completely stifled by Cliff Lee.
So on Thursday, the Cards got seven superb innings from Carpenter, 14 hits against Roy Oswalt and the Philly bullpen, and generally cruised to a laugher of a win against the National League's best team.
"We needed this," said Skip Schumaker, who was 2-for-4 with an RBI. "No doubt. This was a must-win for us in my opinion."
St. Louis blew the game open with a six-run eighth inning, capped off by Lance Berkman's three-run homer, his 18th of the season. It was Berkman's 300th home run as a left-handed hitter.
It was the Cards' first win since they placed Pujols on the disabled list and the first time they had scored more than five runs since June 14. St. Louis won for the third time in 12 games to pull back into a first-place tie with Milwaukee in the National League Central.
The Cards jumped a compromised Oswalt right away. Jon Jay drilled a solo homer in the first inning that traveled 427 feet, over the home bullpen in right field. An inning later, St. Louis strung together four singles in a six-batter span to stretch the lead to 4-0. Oswalt was removed for a pinch-hitter in the next half-inning due to lower back tightness.
"I really wasn't productive, more heaving the ball than throwing the ball," Oswalt said.
His replacement, Kyle Kendrick, did a decent job holding the fort. He allowed single tallies in the third and sixth but kept the game within reach.
Or at least, it would have been within reach against a pitcher other than Carpenter. The former Cy Young winner was extremely sharp, rolling through seven strong innings en route to the win. For the second straight start, he amassed seven strikeouts against one walk, but this time he also had a little luck on his side.
Whereas in his last game, every ground ball and bleeder found open space, on Thursday Carpenter got the results he deserved. Ground balls were turned into outs, and he rolled to his second victory of the season.
"It's nice to win a ballgame," Carpenter said. "We had some issues the first night [of the series], and then they got their guy going the second night, last night, that threw a great game against us and got us. Tonight was a chance to get a game, get a win and get us back on track to go into the weekend. Fortunately I pitched well enough and we got some really nice hits, some key hits, and then late in the game broke it open. It was nice."
A lengthy sixth inning kept Carpenter from finishing the game himself. He needed 36 pitches in the inning, when Philadelphia managed its only run against him, turning a relatively efficient day into something more of a grind.
Still, he did enough to get his team back on the right track. He was allowed to go 124 pitches over seven innings, giving him 248 pitches over his past two games. After a somewhat slow start, Carpenter is coming on strong. He has 43 strikeouts against seven walks over his past seven starts, lowering his ERA from 4.95 to 4.26.
"He's had a rough stretch, but we always feel like he's our most dominant pitcher," Schumaker said. "We needed this game. Bottom line. We really needed this game, in more ways than one."
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.