Colby Rasmus sparks Cardinals; Chris Carpenter stymies Orioles

BALTIMORE -- The St. Louis Cardinals were operating with a depleted bullpen on Wednesday night, and manager Tony La Russa was counting on Chris Carpenter to go deep into the game against the Baltimore Orioles.

Carpenter did so with a marvelous 132-pitch effort that inflicted more pain on the Orioles than the pitcher's tireless right arm.

Carpenter scattered seven hits for his second complete game of the season and Colby Rasmus homered to help the Cardinals cruise to a 5-1 victory on Wednesday night.

Carpenter (3-7) won his second straight start following a five-game losing streak. The right-hander struck out five, walked one and surrendered just one extra-base hit -- an RBI double to Nick Markakis in the third inning.

As Carpenter's pitch count mounted, pitching coach Dave Duncan began to wonder if Carpenter had enough strength to go the distance.

"Dunc asked me after the sixth, after the seventh, after the eighth," Carpenter said. "To be honest with you, I felt just as good at the end of the game as I did at the beginning."

The Cardinals cut struggling reliever Ryan Franklin before the game, and La Russa used three relievers in a win on Tuesday night. So the objective was to avoid going to the bullpen unless it was absolutely necessary.

"Today we were a little short. That was classic there; he knew what he had to do," La Russa said of Carpenter. "Carp was the best guy we had. He has no fear, has a lot of talent. Pitching like he was tonight is what you hope for."

Carpenter's other complete game came on May 25, an eight-inning effort in a 3-1 loss at San Diego. The last time he had a complete-game victory was Sept. 30, 2010, against the Colorado Rockies.

The 35-year-old has 31 complete games over 14 seasons.

Carpenter last faced the Orioles nine years earlier, when he was with the Toronto Blue Jays. He now has eight career wins over Baltimore, more than any other AL opponent.

"He's a big horse. He was able to locate on both sides of the plate," Orioles catcher Matt Wieters said. "He used his cutter, used his sinker, got a good curveball. We got him up to 132 pitches but couldn't get him out of the game."

Rasmus hit a two-run shot in the second inning to give St. Louis a 2-0 lead. It was his second homer of the series, third in five games and No. 8 on the year. He went 17 games without a home run before his recent run.

That was enough offense for the Cardinals, who will attempt to complete a three-game sweep on Thursday night.

Markakis went 2-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to a career-high 18 games. Over that time he has raised his batting average from .236 to .282.

Orioles starter Chris Jakubauskas (2-1) gave up five runs and seven hits in five innings.

It was the first time Jakubauskas faced Lance Berkman since the slugger hit a line drive off the pitcher's head in April 2010, when Jakubauskas was with Pittsburgh. The rematch was far less eventful: Berkman walked in the second inning ahead of Rasmus' homer, hit a sacrifice fly in the third and received an intentional walk in the fifth.

St. Louis made it 4-0 in the third. Nick Punto doubled and scored on a double by Skip Schumaker, who came home on a fly ball by Berkman.

Baltimore got a run in the bottom half when J.J. Hardy hit a two-out single off Carpenter's leg before Markakis doubled.

David Freese hit an RBI single in the fifth, and the Orioles loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom half but failed to score. After giving up three straight singles, Carpenter got Markakis to hit into a fielder's choice at the plate before retiring Adam Jones and Vladimir Guerrero on fly balls.

"He rose to the occasion," La Russa said. "Pitching out of that one inning was the game."

Carpenter gave up only one hit the rest of the way.

"He's our ace," Schumaker said. "He is the kind of pitcher who can rattle off a 10-game string, or the kind of guy who can bring us out of a funk."

St. Louis has won two straight after dropping five of six.

Game notes
Orioles left fielder Luke Scott did not play because he bruised his right knee making a leaping catch against the wall Tuesday night. Someone taped an outline of Scott on the wall before batting practice. ... Left-hander Jaime Garcia and right-hander Jake Westbrook traded places in the Cardinals rotation. Garcia will pitch Thursday against the Orioles and Westbrook will go Friday at Tampa Bay. La Russa says he made the switch because "it sets us up better." ... Markakis is batting .415 during his streak, which includes 10 multihit games.