"Did I pitch great? No," Carpenter said later. "But we won, and that's what matters."
Fortunately for him, the Cardinals rallied from the 4-0 hole he'd dug for them to stun the Phillies and Cliff Lee with a 5-4 triumph in the chilled and compelling Game 2 of their NL division series.
"With the game [Saturday night] and down 4-0 to Cliff Lee, it could have been like, 'Well, we'll see you next year,' " Lance Berkman said.
Carpenter, the big, baritone-voiced righthander, clearly had trouble locating his pitches in home plate umpire's Jerry Meals' dancing strike zone.
"There was a lot of commotion going on back there with the umpire," said Carpenter. "But I thought Jerry did a nice job. Umpires make mistakes just like I made mistakes. . . . If he had missed 20, then we'd have had something to talk about."
Whatever the reason, Carpenter needed 23 pitches just to record his first out, and by then the Phils led by 2-0 and had two more runners on base. A Raul Ibanez single made it 3-0.
Carpenter eventually got Placido Polanco to hit into a double play and escaped further trouble.
"You need to control counts, locate your fastball and get ahead," Carpenter said. "I wasn't able to do that early on. And it cost me. But I was able to do the best I could to get out of it."
The Phillies added another in the second and by the time Carpenter settled down, with his team trailing, 4-0, he had to be lifted for a pinch-hitter after 64 pitches.
"Maybe if there hadn't been men on base, I'd have hit," he said. "But it was pretty clear I wasn't going deep."
Manager Tony La Russa, eager to squeeze two starts out of his ace in a best-of-five series against baseball's best rotation, made the surprising call after Carpenter had shut out Houston in the regular season's final game.
The 36-year-old admitted it caught him off-guard. He said he couldn't recall if he'd ever done it in a big-league career that began in Toronto 14 years ago. A quick statistical check indicated that, like the overwhelming majority of big-league pitchers, he hadn't.
"I really physically felt great - my shoulder, my elbow, my whole body," he said. "Mechanically, I wasn't as sharp as I'd like, and mentally I was not sharp. Mentally, in the first, I wasn't where I needed to be. Walking Utley and Pence was inexcusable."
Carpenter had gotten his first indication of La Russa's plans when he went to Busch Stadium on Thursday to collect some personal items. The manager asked him into his office, where the big question was popped: Could he go on three days' rest if necessary?
"I said, 'I feel good. I'm fine with it. If you guys want me to do it, we'll do it. But if not, we won't. It's your call,' " Carpenter recalled. "[Friday,] before we got here, he told me he was going to have me do it."
But once he got on the mound, it quickly smelled like the wrong decision.
Still, "I look at it as a fun opportunity anytime [I can pitch in the postseason]," Carpenter said.
Contact staff writer Frank Fitzpatrick at 215-854-5068, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @philafitz on Twitter. Read his blog, "Giving 'Em Fitz,: at www.philly.com/fitz