ST. LOUIS (AP) — Chris Carpenter said the St. Louis Cardinals’ slide from contention had nothing to do with getting knocked around.
Carpenter admitted losing focus last fall and told himself it wouldn’t happen again. After a 7-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday, Carpenter said he was not giving up on a season that’s rapidly slipping away.
"I thought it was a lack of concentration, a lack of I don’t want to say effort, but just knowing that we didn’t have a shot and dealing with that situation that I hadn’t been in in a long time, it was tough," Carpenter said. "I feel like we’re going to continue to grind every day and tomorrow’s a big day ... win the series then go into Milwaukee with a chance to gain some ground."
The Cardinals began the day 9 1/2 games behind first-place Milwaukee in the NL Central with only 29 games to go. Providing a sliver of hope, they’ve got six left against the Brewers, starting with a three-game series in Milwaukee that begins on Tuesday.
"What situation are we in?" catcher Yadier Molina said. "We’re going to come every day ready to play the game. We ain’t going to back off."
Rookie Brad Lincoln pitched six scoreless innings and participated in the Carpenter smackdown with an RBI double and walk. Josh Harrison had three singles and three RBIs, Garrett Jones also had three hits with a pair of doubles and Neil Walker homered.
The Pirates got spotless work from a rookie for the second time in four games, following Aaron Thompson’s 4 1-3 innings in his major league debut at home against the Brewers on Monday.
Carpenter (8-9) lost for only the third time in 15 career decisions against Pittsburgh, trudging through five innings while giving up six runs and nine hits. Despite the results, he wasn’t that unhappy with his pitches.
"Really, I felt good," Carpenter said. "There was a few balls that got up. At times I didn’t make pitches but I felt like at times I did, and they just beat me."
The 26-year-old Lincoln (1-0) filled in for injured Kevin Correia (oblique) and scattered six hits with four strikeouts and a walk to earn his second career victory. He’s hit a pair of high notes, the other victory coming on a four-hit shutout at Chicago on June 30, 2010.
"I think you’ve got to give credit to him," Rafael Furcal said. "He pitched pretty good, he’s got good stuff."
Lincoln had an RBI double in the fourth and walked and scored in the sixth. He is now a career .350 hitter (7 for 20) with four RBIs.
The Cardinals loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth on singles by Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday and a walk to Lance Berkman before Lincoln struck out Skip Schumaker.
Carpenter entered with 2.67 ERA at home and had worked eight innings three times in his last five appearances, including Monday when he limited the Dodgers to one run on five hits and left leading 1-0 in a 2-1 loss. This was not his worst outing — he gave up eight runs in four innings April 12 at Arizona.
The last time he gave up five earned runs at home was Sept. 15, 2010 against the Chicago Cubs.
Jones doubled with two outs and scored on Harrison’s single to put the Pirates ahead in the second. Pittsburgh batted around against the Cardinals’ ace in a four-run fourth that featured an RBI double by Lincoln and Harrison’s two-run single.
Walker hit his 11th homer to make it 7-0 in the fifth. Manager Tony La Russa finally paid a visit to the mound after Jones and Harrison followed with singles, but with no one warming up.
La Russa used the same lineup for victories Thursday and Friday and had said he wouldn’t switch until the Cardinals lost, but changed his mind after Friday night’s game. Pujols, Holliday, Berkman and Molina were the only players in the same spots.