For the most part, the 2010s have been a pretty nice little decade for Cardinals baseball. The team’s won a World Series, three division titles and two wild cards and we’ve still got three season finishes to go.
2011 obviously pops up as a benchmark and for good reason. Most had written that team off in March with the news Adam Wainwright would lose the year to Tommy John surgery and those who hadn’t given up on them surely did when they sat 10.5 games from a playoff spot on August 24.
We all know how that ended up and we’ll go ahead and go out on a limb and say it wouldn’t have without Chris Carpenter, one of the fiercest-competing starting pitchers since Bob Gibson.
Carpenter took the ball on the final day of the regular season, tossing a two-hit shutout against Houston to punch the Birds’ October ticket when the choking Braves lost the same day. This set up an NLDS matchup with the top-seeded Phillies and their ace Roy Halladay.
As if the season and series could have been any better-scripted after two Rally Squirrel appearances and a 2-2 series tie, Game 5 sported former Toronto teammates Carpenter and Halladay against one another, with Carp going on short rest. Fans knew it would be a tightly-pitched outing, but may not have banked on the tension level:
Two years shy of retirement, Carpenter tossed a gem and got plenty of backup from Cardinal defenders en route to only the third winner-take-all 1-0 finish in MLB postseason history. It may not have had the glitz of David Freese’s World Series shot against Texas (few moments do), but it was one of history’s many great individual postseason showings.
Carpenter would log three more wins during the World Series run, including Games 1 and 7 of that year’s Fall Classic, but that NLDS Game 5 shutout definitely deserved a Flashback Week tribute.