On a remarkable, riveting Friday night of baseball played at a fever pitch, Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter gave a proud franchise a performance for the ages.
Carpenter delivered the kind of epic, shutdown game reminiscent of the great Hall of Famer Bob Gibson. There is no other way to put it. There is no higher compliment. And it is apt, given that Carpenter long ago emerged as the Cardinals' best starting pitcher since Gibson retired in 1975.
Carpenter stepped to the mound at Citizens Bank Park and channeled all of Gibby's guts, greatness and glory in the deciding Game 5 of the National League Division Series. He took on the Phillies, their crowd, and the toughest sports town in America. And after it was over, Carpenter stood taller than ever. He didn't absorb as much as a bruise, a scratch or a run.
"What you saw," Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan said, "was a guy take control of the game when he saw the first batter walk up there. And he didn't relinquish it at all, at any point."
It would be understating the magnitude of the performance to say that Carpenter pitched a three-hit shutout to lead the Cardinals to a 1-0 victory and a trip to the NL championship series to face their antagonists from Milwaukee.