By Larry Fine
ARLINGTON, Texas (Reuters) - St. Louis Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter will be making a critical start in Monday's World Series Game Five and said he felt great following his victory in the opener of the best-of-seven series.
The Cardinals will either have a chance to clinch the title in Texas or break a 2-2 deadlock with the Rangers in a pivotal game before the series would shift back to St. Louis.
Carpenter, who dealt with elbow pain late in the season, said he was well prepared for the assignment after a light workload of 87 pitches in Game One, which the Cards won 3-2.
"I believe it doesn't matter if you throw 120 (pitches) or 80, whatever, it's the quality of pitches and the difficulty of stressful pitches that you throw," Carpenter told reporters.
"There wasn't a whole lot of stressful pitches for me. It was a battle, but I was able to get through it pretty well and I feel fine. I felt great throughout the last few days."
Carpenter said Sunday he was not worried about facing the potent Rangers lineup so soon after their last matchup.
"Like I've said all along, you execute, you'll get outs. You don't, you won't.
"We saw that last night when the guys kept the ball down, worked ahead in the count, and threw quality pitches down in the strike zone, we got outs, and so did they," he said about the Cardinals' 16-7 victory in Saturday's Game Three.
"When the ball got elevated in the middle of the plate or you fell behind, they started launching balls everywhere. You make good pitches, you'll get outs."
No one was launching the ball any better than St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols, and Carpenter would like nothing better than to see more of the same when he takes the mound.
Three-time National League MVP Pujols belted three homers in addition to a pair of singles and drove in six runs as he plastered his name across the World Series record book.
"Last night was truly an Albert Pujols night that I've seen multiple times, no matter if it's April, June," said Carpenter. "Fortunately for us it was Game Three of the World Series. But he's done this many times.
"Those nights that you can just tell he sees every pitch, and when he does, he's not going to miss it and he hits it a mile. You can see it in his batting practice.
"He does a couple bunts and his first swing he centers and hits 450 feet to the right of the visitors' bullpen out there. You can just see it in him, and you can see when his swing is going the way it's supposed to go.
"It's been so much fun watching him play."
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he was not worried about whether Texas would decide to pitch around Pujols.
"Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman, these guys are classic producers, and then you've got a young, emerging David Freese back there," La Russa said.
"You just don't spend a lot of time trying to anticipate or explain someone else's strategy, because they look at the game differently, and whatever they choose to do you respect the fact that they think they know what's best for their club.
"I'm just saying that if the idea is for Albert not to beat them, that doesn't bother us, because the depth that we have in front and behind him."
(Editing by Steve Ginsburg)