Before the World Series began, all the pundits agreed: if the Cardinals were going to have a chance, they’d need to shut down the Tigers offense. Three games in, the Cardinals pitching staff has allowed exactly five runs. Thanks to an outstanding eight-inning performance from Chris Carpenter, not one of those runs was tallied Tuesday night.
Carpenter allowed only three base runners—all singles—and, with Braden Looper, shut out the AL champions en route to a 5-0 Game 3 victory. The last hit, Sean Casey‘s eighth-inning single, was erased when Brandon Inge hit into a double play, so the Tigers sent only 29 batters to the plate.
To glance at the line score suggests that the Cardinals scattered their offense throughout the game, but the only runs that ended up mattering—and the only scoring that didn’t require the help of Tiger miscues—came in the fourth inning. Preston Wilson led off with a single, Albert Pujols followed with a ground rule double, and Scott Rolen walked to load the bases. After Wilson was forced out at the plate on a Ronnie Belliard ground ball, Jim Edmonds plated two runs with a double to right field.
Almost all of the offensive production of Game 3 is encapsulated in the above paragraph. The two biggest plays of the game, as measured by WPA, were Pujols’ at-bat (12.1%) and Edmonds’ double (17.4%). The only other play of the game that registered more than a 4% impact was Belliard’s force out (-7.2%), changing the situation from bases loaded and none out to bases loaded and one out.
Of course, those individual performances pale in comparison to what Carpenter accomplished for the Cards on the mound. In his eight innings, he only threw 82 pitches, 55 for strikes. Since he hit for himself in the bottom of the eighth (he sacrificed So Taguchi to second after a leadoff walk), Tony LaRussa must have been considering sending him to the mound to finish the game. There were no signs that he couldn’t have.
Having such a strong indication that Carpenter is pitching like a Cy Young Award winner may buoy St. Louis’s title hopes nearly as much as having won Tuesday’s game. Depending on whether LaRussa decides to go with his frontline starters on short rest, Carpenter will return for Game 6 or 7. The Chris Carpenter of the World Series has a much better chance of winning that game than does the Carpenter who struggled through his first outing in the NLCS.
There’s also more mathematically-minded support for the Cardinals’ chances now that St. Louis has taken a 2-1 series lead. Even adjusting for the superiority of the AL, Detroit only has a 44.5% chance of pulling out the series; viewing the circuits as equal, the probability is under 40%. Here are the likelihoods of each possible outcome, according to the method I described before the series began:
DET STL NoAdj LgAdj WIN LOSE 38.6% 44.5% LOSE WIN 61.4% 55.5% 4 2 16.0% 19.3% 4 3 22.9% 25.2% 3 4 19.1% 18.3% 2 4 16.1% 14.4% 1 4 26.3% 22.8%
One has to imagine that the Tigers’ bats will wake up eventually; however, this chart illustrates the possibility that there isn’t a whole lot of time for them to do so. The clock will tick all the faster if Jeff Suppan can translate his NLCS dominance into success in Game 4.