Carpenter knocks in six for 17th win
Veteran starter drills grand slam for first career home run
ST. LOUIS -- Chris Carpenter's performance has recalled Bob Gibson at times during his Cardinals career. He's the only Redbird since Gibson to win the Cy Young Award, and at least arguably the franchise's greatest pitcher since the Hall of Famer hung 'em up. But there's one area where, until Thursday, Carpenter would never be confused with Gibson: at the plate.
However, Carpenter had a record day batting on Thursday as the Cardinals beat the Reds, 13-0, at Great American Ball Park in their final road game of the 2009 regular season. Carpenter launched a grand slam and collected six RBIs, a franchise record for a pitcher. He also secured the National League ERA title with five shutout innings, the first Cardinal to win the ERA crown since Joe Magrane in 1988.
"I said to a few of the guys, this isn't what I was thinking about or what I scripted when I woke up this morning to take a shower," Carpenter said. "It was definitely a fun day. I hadn't done that before or been a part of something like that. So it was definitely one of my funner days that I've had."
Carpenter went deep off Kip Wells in the second inning, the first home run of his Major League career and the 10th grand slam by a pitcher in Cardinals history according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He followed it three innings later with a two-run double, giving him six RBIs on the day. Not only was that a career high, the number equaled the previous total of his entire Major League career. Also per Elias, the six RBIs were a Cardinals franchise record, surpassing a mark set by one of the all-time great hitting pitchers. Gibson drove in five runs on July 26, 1973, against the Mets.
"The first thing I'm going to do when I get on the bus, if we have cell service, is calling Gibson," manager Tony La Russa said.
It's the seventh time since 1960 that a pitcher has had six or more RBIs in a game. The last was Micah Owings, who pitched in relief for the Reds on Thursday, on Aug. 18, 2007, for Arizona against the Mets. The highest total in that time frame is by Tony Cloninger, who had nine for Atlanta against the Giants on July 3, 1966. The last Cardinals pitcher to hit a grand slam was Kent Mercker on Sept. 2, 1998, against the Marlins. In that same game, Mark McGwire hit the 58th and 59th home runs of his record-breaking season.
For Carpenter, typically known as a light hitter even for a pitcher, the game was a continuation of a recent trend. He's become a better hitter this season, even if no one will confuse him with Owings or former teammate Jason Marquis. Before this season, Carpenter was a lifetime .088 hitter with two extra-base hits in 216 at-bats.
PITCHING IN WITH THE BAT
|Pitchers with six or more RBIs in a game, 1960-2009|
|Tony Cloninger, Braves||9||7/3/1966||Giants|
|Robert Person, Phillies||7||6/2/2002||Expos|
|Chris Carpenter, Cardinals||6||10/1/2009||Reds|
|Micah Owings, D-backs||6||8/18/2007||Braves|
|Blue Moon Odom, A's||6||5/4/1969||Pilots|
|Dave Giusti, Astros||6||8/21/1966||Reds|
This year, though, he's been a little more dangerous. With a 2-for-3 day on Thursday, he's up to a .175 batting average on the year, with four extra-base hits. He's 8-for-35 with four extra-base hits since July 27.
"I don't take it as a joke," Carpenter said. "I try to do the best I can. Am I any good? I don't think I'm very good. I think I probably got a little lucky today. But I'm also going to go out and try to be the best I can. I want to be a better hitter. ... I don't want to be an out."
But Carpenter didn't just do it on the hitting side. He also kept up his superb comeback season on the mound. He allowed three hits and a walk, striking out five, to end the season with a 2.24 ERA. Tim Lincecum entered the day with a 2.45 ERA, and would need to pitch 22 2/3 shutout innings against Arizona to drop his ERA below Carpenter's.
"It was a Bob Gibson-like day for Carpenter over there," said Reds manager Dusty Baker. "He shut us out and drove in six runs. He actually beat us by himself today. That grand slam put us behind the eight ball. A guy like him knows what to do with the lead."
The Cardinals finished their road schedule with a 45-36 record. They finish the regular season with three home games against Milwaukee over the weekend.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.