Who needs a day of rest?

Chris Carpenter allowed three runs in the first inning against the Phillies on Sunday. (Matt Slocum/AP)
Chris Carpenter allowed three runs in the first inning against the Phillies on Sunday. (Matt Slocum/AP)
Posted: October 03, 2011

VOICES . . . It didn't take long for a newcomer named Chris Threeday to start whining and complaining to his alter ego.

That would be Chris Fourday, who became the little man inside the head of ace Cardinals righthander Chris Carpenter on May 12, 1997. He was making his first major league start against the Twins in Minnesota. Went three, got raked, took the L. He was 22, breaking in on a Blue Jays staff where the imperious Roger Clemens was the ace.

Carpenter has started 347 regular-season games since that inauspicious debut and nine more in the postseason. Not once in those 356 starts did the Cardinals' 2005 Cy Young Award winner start with less than 4 days' rest.

And how would he? Redbirds manager Tony LaRussa practically invented the five-man rotation while managing the White Sox and then the A's.

So when a manager so smart that he is to Baseball Heaven what St. Peter is to the real one, the grounds shake, the Gateway Arch sways.

There were gasps of disbelief when LaRussa announced he had changed his mind on his NLDS pitching rotation. Kyle Lohse would pitch Game 1 instead of Phillies-killing lefthander Jaime Garcia.

But that wasn't the real shock.

Chris Carpenter, near the top of a short list of pitchers who had worked the most consecutive games on 4 or more days of rest would now get the ball on 3 days' rest.

It was like St. Peter announcing at the Pearly Gates that adultery doesn't count.

"I came out of the alter ego womb screaming, 'What the hell is Tony thinking about?' " Chris Threeday said. "I was all disoriented. My knees were Silly Putty. I couldn't find my breaking ball release point. I kept thinking, 'This guy is 36 years old, for crying out loud. I don't care how smooth and great he felt shutting out Houston to clinch the wild card.

"That was friggin' Houston. Didn't LaRussa notice that was their 106th loss? And now I'm out there feeling Chris' age with 46,000 crazies flapping their doilies at me and screaming like they just announced free beer."

Chris Fourday jumped in at that point.

"Look, newbie, there had to be method to Tony's madness," the veteran resident-ego said. "He had me rope-a-dope the Phillies. I thought I was going to feel great, easy as that Houston game was. So what if some of them had their golf clubs propped in a corner of the dugout and their SUVs packed and idling in the players' parking lot. Tony really had me convinced I could be effective on 3 days' rest and I actually felt complimented that he had that kind of faith in Chris going on short rest in such a big game.

"But we were only down 4-0 when Tony came and got us. I think he said, 'Don't worry, Chris, we'll get 'em in St. Louis. We've got 'em right where we want 'em.' ''

Chris Threeday sighed.

"Whatever," he shrugged.

Spotting Cliff Lee a 4-0 lead in a postseason game is like spotting Rafe Nadal two points a game in tennis or Andy Reid 10 throat clears a minute in an Eagles alibi conference.

Who knew that the Mayor of Citizens Bank Park would treat a windfall that foreshadowed a happy charter flight to Lambert International like a bar of wet soap?

Or that once the Cardinals had cut the Phillies' lead to 4-3 in the fourth and Lee laboring a little more each inning to quell a hail of tracers by the National League's highest scoring offense, LaRussa would use his bullpen backwards? Keep a tourniquet on the Carpenter hemorrhage by using frequent closer Fernando Salas after his starter pitched a shutdown 1-2-3 third? Salas pitched a perfect fourth and fifth. Octavio Dotel was perfect in the sixth.

And by the time Jimmy Rollins - who had three of the Phillies' anemic total of six hits - singled off Marc Rzepcynski with two outs in the seventh, LaRussa's pitching had retired 15 straight hitters - and I use the term lightly.

It was as dramatic a turnaround as you're going to see by a team that looked so dominant in Game 1.

By that time, Cliff Lee was gone, mercifully yanked from an untidy 12-hitter and trailing 5-4 after the Cardinals led off the seventh with a triple, single, single salvo.

With the lead, LaRussa did what he does best, wearing ruts in the Bank's drizzled-on grass, doing his drill team left-right-left number, using his underwhelming bullpen to protect the lead with Brinks truck efficiency. He made six trips to the mound. His bullpen allowed one hit in six innings.

So it's on . . .

Forget about the Moses Malonian three, fo, fo.

Now the best available is a date with Phillies-killer Jaime Garcia and the dwindling possibility of fo, fo, fo.

Spell that fear, fear, fear.

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