Carpenter gives Cards needed lift

PITTSBURGH (AP) – Chris Carpenter gave the same much-needed lift to the St. Louis rotation that Scott Rolen is providing to a Cardinals batting order that is sorely missing star Albert Pujols.

Carpenter held the Pirates to three hits and struck out a career-high 13 in seven shutout innings in his best start since April, and Rolen had four hits to lead St. Louis past Pittsburgh 2-1 Tuesday night.

Jason Isringhausen allowed two hits and Craig Wilson’s sacrifice fly in the ninth inning but he struck out Ronny Paulino with the potential tying run on third for his 21st save.

“My stuff was as good as it ever has been,” said Carpenter, who had won only once since beating the Pirates twice in a week’s time in April. “Those guys are a good hitting team, but when you can execute a game plan and don’t make a lot of mistakes, you can have some success.”

Rolen doubled and scored on Juan Encarnacion’s single in the fourth, then doubled again an inning later to drive in the Cardinals’ second run after So Taguchi drew a two-out walk from Oliver Perez.

“We are a good ballclub with him in the three-hole, but I think we’re a good enough club to win the division,” Rolen said of the absent Pujols. “We miss him, we miss his bat, but he’s not there so I can’t go out there and approach my at-bats any differently because I’m in 3-hole, rather than 4th or 5th.”

Maybe facing the Pirates was all Carpenter (5-3) needed to again resemble the pitcher who went 21-5 and won the Cy Young Award last season.

Carpenter’s start was badly needed by a rotation that had allowed 37 runs in 41 innings in its previous eight games.

“I’ve been struggling a little bit with my mechanics, but I think they’re coming back to where they need to be,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter couldn’t have been much sharper in his second start since coming off the disabled list, surpassing his career high of 12 strikeouts – done twice last season – while not allowing a hit after Sean Casey’s two-out double in the third.

Another sign of how well Carpenter pitched: He threw 71 of 111 pitches for strikes, striking out five of the final six he faced.

“That’s why he’s a Cy Young Award winner,” Casey said. “He had every pitch working. His ball was heavy and down all night.”