The Cardinals Major League Notebook 04/10

Chris Carpenter, who hadn't won a game for the Cardinals since the 2006 World Series, was better than anyone possibly could have dreamed Thursday.

Carpenter, beset by elbow and shoulder problems the last two seasons—he pitched in just five games—throttled the Pittsburgh Pirates on one hit for seven innings. His teammates rallied for two runs in the bottom of the seventh for a 2-1 win preserved by Ryan Franklin and Dennys Reyes.

The veteran right-handed starter struck out seven and allowed only two balls to be hit out of the infield, one of them Ramon Vazquez's single past diving second baseman Skip Schumaker with two outs in the seventh to break up the no-hitter. Pittsburgh had scored an unearned run in the third inning.

"This is the first time in a long time I've felt as good as I do now," Carpenter said.

The 2005 Cy Young Award winner had been nearly this good in the exhibition season, in which he didn't allow an earned run until the last of his six spring starts. But he said, "It was fun to get out there and pitch in a real game. The name of the game is to hit the glove, and I was able to do that most of the day."

Manager Tony La Russa barely could restrain himself in his praise of Carpenter.

"When you're really, really good, you can pull off something like that," La Russa said. "This guy is as good as anybody out there pitching—in any league.

"Whenever he's been healthy, that's what he looks like."

Cardinals 2, Pirates 1: St. Louis managed a 2-2 series split with Pittsburgh in the season-opening series, but it required a one-hitter by Chris Carpenter and two relievers. It also took four singles, including a bunt hit by Khalil Greene, to net two seventh-inning runs, with Brian Barden's run-scoring pinch single the game-winner.

Notes, Quotes

• RHP Chris Carpenter beat the Pirates for the ninth straight time Thursday. He is 10-1 with a 2.06 ERA against them, walking 84 and striking out 18, with hitters averaging only .187 against him.

Albert Pujols set a record for Cardinals first basemen Wednesday with seven assists, the most by a National League first baseman in a nine-inning game in 38 years.

• The Cardinals' win on Tuesday ended a four-game losing streak against the Pirates. Last year, St. Louis beat Pittsburgh only seven times in 17 meetings.

• The Cardinals and Pirates met in a season opener for the 32nd time, 27 of them in St. Louis, but Monday marked was the first time the teams had opened the season together since 1983.

By The Numbers: 12—Players on the 2009 opening-day roster who were on the opening-night roster in 2008.

Quote To Note: "Maybe he's trying to do too much or something. I don't know. Whatever it is, he'd better try to get it changed."—Pitching coach Dave Duncan on the struggles of RHP Kyle McClellan.

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