Phillies lose to Cardinals 5-0

PHILADELPHIA - September 18, 2011

A day after clinching their fifth straight NL East title, the Philadelphia Phillies rested two starters and lost 5-0 to Chris Carpenter and the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday night.

"It was a little different than last night," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "Not as much noise."

Albert Pujols helped take the crowd out of the game early with a two-run homer in the first inning off Cole Hamels (14-9). Allen Craig added a pair of homers for St. Louis and Carpenter pitched eight innings to keep the Phillies (98-53) four wins shy of setting a franchise single-season record.

Carpenter (10-9) recorded all but four of his outs by groundballs, and induced three double plays. Only three Phillies reached second and none advanced to third. Carpenter finished with five strikeouts and one walk.

"Their pitcher pitched good," Manuel said. "He was changing speeds and had a good sinker. The double plays made it difficult to score runs."

Said Carpenter: "I was getting ahead in the count, sinking the ball down and away and getting the ball on the ground, which is key for these guys. My stuff was good, commanding down in the strike zone on both sides of the plate with my fastball. When you're against guys who want to swing, if you make good pitches, you get early outs."

While the Phillies are merely awaiting the postseason, the Cardinals (83-69) are fighting for a spot in the playoffs and pulled within 3½ games of the Atlanta Braves in the NL wild-card chase.

St. Louis, which has won nine of 11 games, is avoiding focusing on the big picture.

"Common sense is if you allow anything to distract you then it's going to take away from your best shot," St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa said. "So don't think about anything but the next game we're going to play. We can't control what Atlanta does. But if we don't win a bunch of games, then it's all irrelevant. We're just trying to win the game we play in the series we're playing."

The Phillies have the luxury of giving key players rest. First baseman Ryan Howard, who is battling a nagging left ankle injury, and catcher Carlos Ruiz didn't start for Philadelphia. Howard is scheduled to have an anti-inflammatory injection in the ankle on Monday.

And they can provide opportunities for newcomers such as Justin DeFratus, who made his major league debut in the ninth inning. The right-hander nearly gave up a homer on his first pitch, but Lance Berkman's drive to center was caught on the warning track.

"He almost got introduced on the first pitch," Manuel joked. "I think Mother Nature held the ball up."

DeFratus took a big sigh after Shane Victorino caught the ball, and he wound up pitching a scoreless inning.

"I was not as nervous as I thought I would be, but definitely keyed up," DeFratus said. "I was trying to throw a strike on the first pitch so when Victorino caught it I thought that was cool. I was just trying to throw strikes."

DeFratus was one of two relievers to follow Hamels. The left-hander was vying to tie his career high with 15 wins, but two bad pitches did him in. Outside of the homers, he was solid with nine strikeouts and no walks while allowing seven hits and four runs in seven innings.

"A couple of bad pitches, otherwise he was fine," Manuel said. "Pujols hit a fastball that looked like it was inside, but Pujols is Pujols."

Pujols put the Cardinals up 2-0 in the first inning by launching Hamels' first pitch into the second deck in left field. The St. Louis slugger had been just 3 for 20 (.150) off Hamels entering the game. It was the 36th homer for Pujols, who is five RBIs shy of 100 in his quest for his 11th straight season of batting .300 with 30 homers and 100 RBIs. He went 1 for 4 and his averaged dropped a point to .300.

"I've seen it for 11 years," LaRussa said. "It got everybody excited and Hamels got really, really tough so it's a good thing we got him before everything got working."

St. Louis increased the margin to 4-0 in the sixth on Craig's two-run shot. Craig twice failed in sacrifice bunt attempts, but he made up for it with a long drive to deep left center. Craig's homer was the 17th allowed by Hamels this season, which is the most on the heralded Phillies staff.

Craig added a solo shot to center in the eighth off Joe Blanton.

"He's hit every place he's played," LaRussa said of Craig. "And he's gotten big hits and those are two big ones."

Fernando Salas completed the shutout with a scoreless ninth.

Carpenter hopes the Cardinals can continue the momentum.

"You continue to play hard, just like we have all year," he said. "Fortunately we've been pitching well and hitting well. Some things are going well for us at times and we're pitching and playing well. That's what you have to do.

"We've been playing well and hopefully we can continue it tomorrow and get back home and continue it at home."

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