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Carpenter, offense struggle in Cardinals' Game 1 loss
LOS ANGELES -- Scoring early against St. Louis ace Chris Carpenter gave the Los Angeles Dodgers the shot of confidence they needed. Then their bullpen came in and closed out the Cardinals.
Randy Wolf survived a shaky first inning before five relievers combined to give up one run in the Dodgers' 5-3 victory Wednesday night in an NL playoff opener full of missed chances for both teams.
"A lot of people believe they have one of the best bullpens in baseball," St. Louis right fielder Ryan Ludwick said. "They kind of shut us down. They shut the door."
Pitching in the playoffs for the first time in his 11-year career, Wolf lasted 3 2/3 innings against Carpenter, who came in with a career 5-1 record and 2.53 ERA in the postseason.
Matt Kemp hit a two-run homer off Carpenter in the first inning, giving the NL West champions the lead for good.
"It was a little sinker down the middle," Kemp said. "We haven't done too well against him, but we came tonight with the confidence. We were trying to make him battle and got him out pretty early and got to the bullpen."
Wolf was the Dodgers' most consistent starter this season, with a 2.98 ERA in the second half and just one loss since Aug. 1 for his hometown team. Against the Cardinals, the left-hander from the San Fernando Valley allowed two runs and six hits, walked five and struck out two.
Jeff Weaver, who relieved Wolf, got the victory, allowing one hit in 1 1/3 innings and striking out one. Jonathan Broxton pitched 1 1/3 innings to earn the save.
"It's huge," Weaver said about beating Carpenter, "especially at home against a guy who can shut things down. We were able to push a couple more runs across, and our bullpen did what it's done all year."
The teams set a division series record by stranding a combined 30 runners. The Dodgers left 16, including 12 in scoring position.
"We had too many chances, too many chances," said Mark DeRosa, who left two runners on base in the third inning. "Their bullpen came in, and inning after inning, we didn't get the big hit we needed."
Offense was at a premium for both teams' sluggers. The Dodgers' Manny Ramirez went 1 for 4 with a double and a walk, while Albert Pujols was 0 for 3 with two intentional walks for the NL Central champions.
"In the playoffs, everything's different, so we're just happy that we got the win," Ramirez said. "But remember, tomorrow's another day, so let's see what happens. We still got two more to go."
Game 2 is today at Dodger Stadium, with Clayton Kershaw, another playoff rookie, starting for Los Angeles against 19-game winner Adam Wainwright. Only once this season when Carpenter and Wainwright started back-to-back did St. Louis lose both games.
Carpenter, who was the NL's ERA leader while going 17-4 and went 2-0 against the Dodgers this season, gave up four runs and nine hits in five innings. The right-hander walked four and struck out three.
"I wasn't making very many good pitches and they put some bats on the mistakes I made," Carpenter said. "I was either right down the middle or out of the strike zone and that's not a good way to pitch."
Carpenter went 12-1 after the All-Star break, losing once since June 30. He allowed four runs just twice in that span.
The Cardinals reduced their deficit to 5-3 in the ninth, getting a two-out RBI double from DeRosa. Broxton then struck out pinch-hitter Rick Ankiel looking to end it.
Skip Schumaker's RBI double in the fourth cut the Dodgers' lead to 3-2. After Wolf hit Matt Holliday with a pitch to load the bases, Weaver came in.
Ludwick pulled a drive into the right-field corner that barely landed foul. Ludwick then hit a bouncer back to Weaver, who threw to first to end the inning.
"It's a game of inches, huh? It went my way," Weaver said. "The second slider was a good pitch. He just kind of one-handed it out there, and luckily it curled enough to go foul. Then Russ came out and we just said that we have to make sure the next pitch is chased -- and if anything, he hits it off the end of the bat."
The Dodgers made it 3-1 in the third when Andre Ethier was hit by a pitch, moved up on a walk to Ramirez and took third on James Loney's flyout.
Third baseman DeRosa made a diving, backhanded stop of Casey Blake's infield hit down the line, but his throw to second sailed into right field. In the second, DeRosa banged his right hand into Loney while scrambling back to first base on a lineout.
Wolf let St. Louis load the bases with no outs in the first. But he allowed just one run on Ludwick's bloop single to center between Kemp and Ronnie Belliard, and then Kemp put Los Angeles ahead.
The Dodgers needed a mere three pitches to take a 2-1 lead. Rafael Furcal led off with a single and Kemp sent Carpenter's third pitch over the wall in right center for his first postseason homer. Carpenter allowed a pair of two-out singles before striking out Belliard.
"You have to go in with patience, let him throw strikes and then make a lot of concentration and try to make something happen," Furcal said. "Try to make him pitch as much as you can because I think if we're on base we've got more chance to win the game."
Furcal extended Los Angeles' lead to 4-2 in the fifth with a sacrifice fly.
Los Angeles loaded the bases again in the sixth, and Kyle McClellan hit Russell Martin to force in Ethier with the Dodgers' fifth run.