October 2, 2011: Cardinals rally vs. Cliff Lee to win Game 2 of the NLDS

Chris Carpenter

Things could not have looked much worse for the Cardinals early in Game 2 of their 2011 National League Division Series match-up against the Phillies.

One day earlier, they lost the series opener 11-6 as Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, a graduate of Wildwood’s Lafayette High School, launched a three-run homer as part of a 14-hit Phillies attack.

With Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter on the mound on three days’ rest for Game 2, the Phillies continued to pile up runs. Jimmy Rollins led off the Phillies’ day with a double before Carpenter uncharacteristically walked Chase Utley and Hunter Pence. Howard made those walks costly with a two-run single, and Raul Ibanez added an RBI single of his own to make it 3-0 Phillies after one inning. In the second, Rollins doubled and Pence drove him home with a single into right field.

Carpenter was visibly frustrated by home plate umpire Jerry Meals’ strike zone, and Cardinals manager Tony La Russa took the opportunity to complain about the balls and strikes calls during his midgame TV interview.

“I’m not going to lie,” reliever Octavio Dotel said. “I didn’t expect to see (Fernando Salas) warming up in the second inning.”[1]

With their 2005 Cy Young Award winner on the ropes and a 4-0 deficit on the scoreboard, the Cardinals needed to rally against left-hander Cliff Lee, the 2008 Cy Young Award winner and a 17-game winner during the regular season. Incredibly, they started that comeback in the fourth inning, stunning the 46,575 fans who comprised the largest audience in Citizen Bank Park history.[2]

Lance Berkman, whom the Cardinals signed as a free agent prior to the season, led off the inning with a walk. With one out, Yadier Molina reached on an infield single and Ryan Theriot doubled into right field to score Berkman. One batter later, Jon Jay followed with a single into right field that scored Molina.

With the Phillies’ lead cut in half, Nick Punto was called upon to pinch-hit for Carpenter, but Lee struck him out on four pitches. Then, with two outs, Rafael Furcal tallied the Cardinals’ fourth hit of the inning, singling into left to score Theriot and cut the Phillies’ lead to 4-3.

After just three innings, Carpenter was out of the game. He had allowed four runs – all earned – on five hits and three walks. Afterwards, La Russa defended his decision to start Carpenter on short rest.

“We’ve been around a long time. We know the risk,” he said. “You have to prove to your team you’re going to take the best shot. You can’t leave here with a pitcher the caliber of Lee going against them and the club not see Carp out there. We were not going to let (Carpenter) get to a place where he really labored.”[3]

“I didn’t pitch great but we won,” Carpenter said. “That’s the way it goes. That’s all that matters.”[4]

The win was made possibly by an outstanding performance from the Cardinals bullpen. Salas, who was making his playoff debut, entered in the fourth and threw two perfect innings, retiring all six batters he faced.

“Salas set the tone for us,” fellow reliever Arthur Rhodes said. “He came out, threw strikes, picked up Carp. We all followed his lead.”[5]

“Whatever the team needed,” said Salas, who saved 24 games during the regular season before Jason Motte took over the closer’s role. “If it was one inning, two innings, three innings … (I) was willing to pitch early in the game and late in the game. Whatever the team needs.”[6]

With two outs in the top of the sixth, Theriot lined a double into left field and Jay singled for the second time in the game to tie the score, 4-4.

Dotel, who came to the Cardinals in the Colby Rasmus trade in July, retired the side in order in the sixth before St. Louis took the lead in the seventh. Allen Craig, in the lineup as Matt Holliday recovered from a hand injury, sparked the Cardinals’ game-winning rally with a triple into center field. Albert Pujols followed with a line-drive single into left to put the Cardinals on top, 5-4.

From there, the game became a battle of bullpens. Dotel struck out Carlos Ruiz to begin the seventh, then gave way to Marc Rzepczynski. The lefty, another acquisition in the Rasmus trade, allowed a single to Rollins, but Molina picked off the Phillies shortstop to end the inning.

Rzepczynski hit Chase Utley with a pitch to open the eighth inning. Wasting no time, La Russa decided to play the matchups the rest of the way. Mitchell Boggs entered the game and got Pence to hit a ground ball that turned into an out at second base. Taking advantage of the lefty-lefty matchup, Rhodes struck out Howard for the second out of the inning.

With four outs remaining in the game, La Russa turned to Motte, who got Shane Victorino to fly out to end the eighth. Motte returned for the ninth inning and retired all three batters he faced.

Altogether, the Cardinals’ bullpen pitched six scoreless innings while allowing just one hit.

If any one of those guys doesn’t do their job, we don’t win that game,” La Russa said.[7]

“We wanted to get into their bullpen,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “The big problem was that their bullpen held us. What did we get? One hit? Two hits after that?”[8]

Lee, who joined Roy Halladay as a co-ace of the best rotation in baseball, took the loss for the Phillies. He allowed five earned runs on 12 hits and two walks.

“They continued to fight,” Lee said. “They got some big hits when they needed to. I wasn’t able to make the pitches I needed to in the situations I needed to. I take full responsibility.”[9]

With the comeback, the Cardinals avoided going down by two games in the best-of-five series. Jaime Garcia was slated to oppose Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels in Game 3.

“This team is like a good plow-horse,” Berkman said. “We keep plugging away, and no matter what we’re going to put in a good nine innings.”[10]


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[1] Joe Strauss, “Cards survive roll of dice,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 3, 2011.

[2] Matt Gelb, “St. Louis beats Lee while its ’pen holds,” Philadelphia Inquirer, October 3, 2011.

[3] Joe Strauss, “Cards survive roll of dice,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 3, 2011.

[4] Joe Strauss, “Cards survive roll of dice,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 3, 2011.

[5] Derrick Goold, “Salas sets tone for ’pen with scoreless innings,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 3, 2011.

[6] Derrick Goold, “Salas sets tone for ’pen with scoreless innings,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 3, 2011.

[7] Joe Strauss, “Cards survive roll of dice,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 3, 2011.

[8] Phil Sheridan, “In the postseason, nothing is certain,” Philadelphia Inquirer, October 3, 2011.

[9] Phil Sheridan, “In the postseason, nothing is certain,” Philadelphia Inquirer, October 3, 2011.

[10] Bernie Miklasz, “Gamble worked out in the end,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 3, 2011.

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