(BaseballStL) -- He admits it was an experience that he'll never forget. Hearing his named called over the public address system, walking onto the mound to a huge ovation and then throwing his first pitch of 2012 in game number 151.
Chris Carpenter is back. Five innings. Five hits. Two runs. 77 pitches, 47 of which were strikes. He was upper 80s, low 90s for the majority of the evening and was heavily reliant on his cutter.
But the stuff and the stats were just the beginning of what it meant to the Cardinals to have Carp back out there. His mere presence is an extraordinary lift. Guys like Joe Kelly said it was an honor to watch him for the first time. He'd seen him throw bullpen sessions and spring training games, sure, but never in real live action.
For Kelly, Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal...it's an opportunity to learn.
At Wrigley Field, you would have thought you in St. Louis by the looks of the crowd. First and foremost, the place was a ghost town. The announced crowd (i.e. paid attendance) of around 29,000 is probably triple the number of actual people in seats. But, you know what, there was more red than blue. I heard a few Chicago media members debating throughout the game how they literally think there were more Cardinals fans in attendance than Cubs fans.
And they let Chris Carpenter know they were there each and every pitch he threw. The man knows the type of support he's got. He knows what he means to this team.
So does everyone else in that clubhouse, too.
For a club that's trying to hold off the Dodgers, Brewers and pretty much every other team in the National League for that second and final wild card spot....it needs every boost it can get. And knowing it can get a couple more starts out of Chris Carpenter in the remaining 11 games will give the Cards and added edge it wouldn't have had before.
The logical thought would be that Carpenter will continue to improve. It's reasonable to assume this was similar to a rehab start for him...just with a lot more on the line. But in the starts that are following, the velocity should increase, the command should be better and the crispness of his pitches should undoubtedly improve.
I don't believe we've seen the best of Chris Carpenter in 2012. He may only get a couple more chances if the Cards can't hold on and advance to the playoffs. But if they do? If he does end up getting four, five or even six more starts?
By the time this season is through he could be pitching so well you'll have forgotten he missed the first 150 games at all.