Two Friends, One Epic Game, Neither Was Ever Quite the Same

Of course we remember Oct. 7, 2011. Game Five of the National League Division Series, the epic match-up of best buddies Chris Carpenter and the wild card Cardinals against Roy Halladay and the 102-win-best-record-in-MLB Phillies.

And now, with the retirement on Monday of Halladay and the official retirement of Carpenter last month, we remember it anew.

roy_halladay_chris_carpenterThat the long-time friends were facing each other for the first time, and in such a situation, was of course much hyped, yet justifiably so. Each was a Cy Young winner, Carpenter in 2005 and Halladay twice — winning as a Blue Jay in 2003 and a Phillie in 2010, the season he threw a perfect game against the Marlins and a no-hitter against the Reds in his postseason debut. (Thank you again, baseball gods, for letting Brandon Phillips be the final batter in that one.)

Then came Game Five itself, living up to every bit of the hype. The Cardinals took charge in the first inning, with a lead-off triple from Rafael Furcal followed by a Skip Schumaker double providing the only run of the game. Halladay scattered four other hits throughout his eight total innings, striking out seven and walking one — That Guy Who Used to Play First Base — intentionally. Carpenter was even better, as we all so gladly remember: only three hits, an equal number of strikeouts, no walks, one final out primal scream and one Nick Punto shredding.

Carpenter and the Cardinals moved on to face the Brewers in the NLCS — he made one start, allowing three earned runs on six hits with three walks and three Ks in the Game Three victory. In the World Series against the Rangers, he started Games One, Five and Seven — the finale on three days’ rest, as we happily recall. He allowed two earned runs in each game and pitched six, seven and six innings.

His total innings pitched in 2011 were 273 1/3 — a career high. We know what happened from there: the nerve condition, the rib removal in the 2012 season-ending-surgery-that-wasn’t, the September start at Wrigley Field, the October victory over the Nationals, the nerve condition recurrence this February, this summer’s starts at Springfield and Memphis, the first pitch before Game Two of the NLDS in October and John Mozeliak’s November announcement that made his retirement official. From Bob Nightengale at USA Today, we also know CC’s thoughts on October 2011:

“I left it all out there,” Carpenter said, “and I wouldn’t change a thing. My body really hasn’t responded since, but that’s OK. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

What we didn’t necessarily realize, with our Cardinals focus, was that since Game Five, Halladay really wasn’t quite the same either. He started out great in 2012, throwing eight shutout innings with only two hits on Opening Day. He made quality starts throughout April, finishing the month with a 1.95 ERA. Then things got worse: a 6.11 ERA in six May starts beginning with eight earned runs in 5 1/3 innings on May 2 and capped by four first inning runs on a Yadier Molina grand slam at Busch Stadium on May 27 before leaving after the second inning — with his next stop the disabled list with a strained shoulder.

Halladay returned on July 17 and was up and down, ranging from seven shutout innings on Aug. 4 to seven earned runs in 1 2/3 innings on Sept. 22. He finished the season with an 11-8 record and 4.49 ERA. Not terrible, just not typical Roy Halladay.

Terrible might describe the beginning of his 2013, however. Five runs in 3 1/3 innings in his first start, seven runs in his four innings during his second, eight in 3 2/3 in his sixth and nine in 2 1/3 in his seventh on May 5. After that, the DL was his next stop once more — with shoulder surgery in mid-May. He returned in late August to make six more starts, compiling a 4.55 ERA in those. Overall in 2013, he was 4-5 with a 6.82 ERA.

And now he too is officially finished with his playing career, just like his good buddy and former Jays teammate. The fact both retired due to injuries is just baseball, of course. Injuries happen to so many, even to the best.

Thankfully we had the chance to see both Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter not just pitch but excel. And we, like them, will always have the memories of the one game they faced each other — our guy shining a little more brightly that night.

And an evening after which neither one was ever really the same again.

Thanks to Karilee Jeantet, Phillies writer for Aerys Sports, for the conversation that sparked this post idea. Read Karilee’s tribute to Roy Halladay here.


Christine Coleman is the lead writer for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email aaronmilesfastball@gmail.com. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates and like us on Facebook if you don’t already.

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