SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Chris Carpenter never felt right. There were command problems, and one pitch he wanted back that might have changed the game.
His remarkable return finally hit a rough stretch Monday night.
The St. Louis Cardinals' longtime postseason ace came back from a complicated operation that removed a rib and two neck muscles just to get on the mound again this October for the reigning World Series champions.
His recent run of spectacular playoff pitching ended in one tough inning as St. Louis lost Game 2 of the NL championship series to the San Francisco Giants 7-1 and headed back home to Busch Stadium with the best-of-seven showdown tied at 1.
"A little bit of everything," he said, addressing what went wrong. "Command wasn't good, sharpness wasn't as good as I'd like. At the end it came down to one pitch that could have changed the game around and moved on to the next inning, and I wasn't able to make that pitch."
And he's not talking about the leadoff home run by Angel Pagan in the first inning. Marco Scutaro's two-out, two-run single in the fourth put San Francisco ahead 5-1.
After Pagan's drive, Carpenter made quick work of the Giants with consecutive 11-pitch innings before a mistake-filled fourth did in the Cardinals.
And, strangely enough on this night, Carpenter might have helped the Cardinals more with his bat than his arm. He hit an RBI double in the second inning off Ryan Vogelsong for St. Louis' lone run.
"I got lucky," he said. "You get lucky every once in awhile."
In the fourth, Carpenter was charged with a throwing error when he fielded Brandon Crawford's tough chopper to his left and made a rushed throw to first that was out of reach for Allen Craig. That allowed the go-ahead run to come home, and San Francisco added another when left fielder Matt Holliday misplayed Scutaro's hit and a third run scored on the play.
Carpenter's night was done after that, a 29-pitch inning. The bearded right-hander took a seat in the dugout, stone faced and seemingly unfazed. He allowed two earned runs, five in all, and six hits in four innings — and his postseason ERA in two outings this year is still an impressive 1.86.
"I'm not going to make going to make excuses about what was going on," Carpenter said. "I just didn't have good stuff tonight and I didn't pitch well enough to win."