Chris Carpenter pitches like his old self after surgery

  • Washington Nationals left fielder Michael Morse (38) shows his frustration as he strikes out to end the first inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of Major League Baseball's National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals left fielder Michael Morse (38) shows his frustration as he strikes out to end the first inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of Major League Baseball's National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Nationals' Edwin Jackson delivers the first pitch in the top of the first inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)Nationals' Edwin Jackson delivers the first pitch in the top of the first inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)
  • Cardinals' Pete Kozma (38) is greeted in the dugout after his three-run home run in the top of the second inning as the Washington Nationals hosting the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)Cardinals' Pete Kozma (38) is greeted in the dugout after his three-run home run in the top of the second inning as the Washington Nationals hosting the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) pitches in the first inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) pitches in the first inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma (38) hits a three run homer in the second inning to put the St. Louis Cardinals up 4-0 as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma (38) hits a three run homer in the second inning to put the St. Louis Cardinals up 4-0 as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson (5) argues a call with the first base umpire in the second inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson (5) argues a call with the first base umpire in the second inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa (8) shows his frustration in the dugout as he was called out at first on a bunt in the second inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa (8) shows his frustration in the dugout as he was called out at first on a bunt in the second inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals center fielder Bryce Harper (34) wears red contacts as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals center fielder Bryce Harper (34) wears red contacts as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • A Washington Nationals pitching coach comes to the mound to talk to Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) after struggling in the second inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)A Washington Nationals pitching coach comes to the mound to talk to Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) after struggling in the second inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • The St. Louis Cardinals congratulate each other after a 8-0 win over the Nationals in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.., Oct. 10, 2012. (Preston Keres/Special to The Washington Times)
The St. Louis Cardinals congratulate each other after a 8-0 win over the Nationals in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.., Oct. 10, 2012. (Preston Keres/Special to The Washington Times)
  • ** FILE ** Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson (5) watches the ninth inning from the dugout as the Washington Nationals lose to the St. Louis Cardinals 8-0 in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)** FILE ** Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson (5) watches the ninth inning from the dugout as the Washington Nationals lose to the St. Louis Cardinals 8-0 in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Nationals' relief pitcher Drew Storen delivers in the top of the ninth inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)Nationals' relief pitcher Drew Storen delivers in the top of the ninth inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals relief pitcher Ryan Mattheus (52) sits in the dugout after giving up two runs in the eight inning as the Washington Nationals lose to the St. Louis Cardinals 8-0 in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals relief pitcher Ryan Mattheus (52) sits in the dugout after giving up two runs in the eight inning as the Washington Nationals lose to the St. Louis Cardinals 8-0 in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals relief pitcher Ryan Mattheus (52) shows his frustration after giving up two runs in the eight inning as the Washington Nationals lose to the St. Louis Cardinals 8-0 in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals relief pitcher Ryan Mattheus (52) shows his frustration after giving up two runs in the eight inning as the Washington Nationals lose to the St. Louis Cardinals 8-0 in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran (3) slides across home plate as he and St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay (19) score in the eighth inning to put the St. Louis Cardinals up 8-0 against the Washington Nationals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran (3) slides across home plate as he and St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay (19) score in the eighth inning to put the St. Louis Cardinals up 8-0 against the Washington Nationals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11) strikes out in the seventh inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11) strikes out in the seventh inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Nationals' relief pitcher Christian Garcia wipes his brow following a conference on the mound in the top of the seventh inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)Nationals' relief pitcher Christian Garcia wipes his brow following a conference on the mound in the top of the seventh inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)
  • St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday (7) goes down after being hit by a foul ball in the eighth inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday (7) goes down after being hit by a foul ball in the eighth inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11) throws out St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday (7) in the seventh inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11) throws out St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday (7) in the seventh inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) grimaces after he finishes for the day as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) grimaces after he finishes for the day as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa (8) strikes out in the eight inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa (8) strikes out in the eight inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (R) scores before the ball gets to Washington Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki in the top of the 6th inning of Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.., Oct. 10, 2012. (Preston Keres/Special to The Washington Times)
St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (R) scores before the ball gets to Washington Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki in the top of the 6th inning of Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.., Oct. 10, 2012. (Preston Keres/Special to The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth (28) misses a catch against the wall in the sixth inning hit by St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese (23) as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth (28) misses a catch against the wall in the sixth inning hit by St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese (23) as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Left to right: Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche (25), right fielder Jayson Werth (28), and center fielder Bryce Harper (34), get ready to take the field for the top of the sixth inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Left to right: Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche (25), right fielder Jayson Werth (28), and center fielder Bryce Harper (34), get ready to take the field for the top of the sixth inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth (28) squats on third base between plays in the fifth inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth (28) squats on third base between plays in the fifth inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals center fielder Bryce Harper (34) wears red contacts as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals center fielder Bryce Harper (34) wears red contacts as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) finishes out the 5th inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) finishes out the 5th inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) throws out St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay (19) on a bunt in the fifth inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) throws out St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay (19) on a bunt in the fifth inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa (8) shows his frustration in the dugout as he was called out at first on a bunt in the second inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa (8) shows his frustration in the dugout as he was called out at first on a bunt in the second inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson (5) argues a call with the first base umpire in the second inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson (5) argues a call with the first base umpire in the second inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Despite beating the throw, Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa (8) is called out at first on a sacrifice bunt in the second inning in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Oct. 10, 2012. (Preston Keres/Special to The Washington Times)
Despite beating the throw, Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa (8) is called out at first on a sacrifice bunt in the second inning in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Oct. 10, 2012. (Preston Keres/Special to The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) sits in the dugout after giving up 3 runs in the second inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) sits in the dugout after giving up 3 runs in the second inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) gave up four earned runs in five innings pitches to lose Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Oct. 10, 2012. (Preston Keres/Special to The Washington Times)
Washington Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) gave up four earned runs in five innings pitches to lose Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Oct. 10, 2012. (Preston Keres/Special to The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki (24) visits with starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) after giving up three runs in the second inning of Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Oct. 10, 2012. (Preston Keres/Special to The Washington Times)
Washington Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki (24) visits with starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) after giving up three runs in the second inning of Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Oct. 10, 2012. (Preston Keres/Special to The Washington Times)
  • Nationals' Kurt Suzuki reacts after striking out in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)Nationals' Kurt Suzuki reacts after striking out in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)
  • Cardinals' Jon Jay (19) and Carlos Beltran (3) are greeted at the dugout by Allen Craig (21) after scoring on a two-run RBI single by Matt Holliday in the top of the eighth inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)Cardinals' Jon Jay (19) and Carlos Beltran (3) are greeted at the dugout by Allen Craig (21) after scoring on a two-run RBI single by Matt Holliday in the top of the eighth inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)
  • St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma (38) hits a three run homer in the second inning to put the St. Louis Cardinals up 4-0 as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma (38) hits a three run homer in the second inning to put the St. Louis Cardinals up 4-0 as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Nationals' Edwin Jackson delivers in the top of the first inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)Nationals' Edwin Jackson delivers in the top of the first inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)
  • Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman is tagged in a force out at second base by Cardinals' Pete Kozma in the bottom of the first inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman is tagged in a force out at second base by Cardinals' Pete Kozma in the bottom of the first inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)
  • Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman takes a lead off first base in the bottom of the first inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman takes a lead off first base in the bottom of the first inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11) winds up to hit a single in the first inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11) winds up to hit a single in the first inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth (28) claps his hands as he hits a single as the lead off hitter in the first inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth (28) claps his hands as he hits a single as the lead off hitter in the first inning as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals Jayson Werth singles on a line drive to center field for his team's first hit in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Oct. 10, 2012. (Preston Keres/Special to The Washington Times)
Washington Nationals Jayson Werth singles on a line drive to center field for his team's first hit in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Oct. 10, 2012. (Preston Keres/Special to The Washington Times)
  • Nationals' Jayson Werth reacts to the National's first hit of the game, his single in the bottom of the first inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)Nationals' Jayson Werth reacts to the National's first hit of the game, his single in the bottom of the first inning as the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)
  • Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11), center fielder Bryce Harper (34), and others gets ready for the game in the dugout as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11), center fielder Bryce Harper (34), and others gets ready for the game in the dugout as the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of Major League Baseball playoffs at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
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Chris Carpenter sauntered through a concrete tunnel in Nationals Park, a cup of Gatorade in his right hand and an easy grin on his face.

After 5 2/3 scoreless innings Wednesday afternoon, the 37-year-old’s day was done. His St. Louis Cardinals had clinched a 2-1 lead in the National League Division Series, and Carpenter had won his first game since Game 7 of the 2011 World Series.

The former Cy Young winner threw 106 pitches, struck out two and even collected a pair of hits at the plate in the Cardinals‘ 8-0 demolition of the Nationals. The most impressive part of his performance, however, may be that he was able to pitch at all.

Four months ago, Carpenter abandoned all hope of pitching in the 2012 season. For at least three years he had battled weakness and temporary numbness in his right forearm, the result of pressured nerves in his arms and neck.

Carpenter started the season on the disabled list, and by mid-June the discomfort became too much to handle. He had what the Cardinals termed season-ending surgery July 19, when doctors freed up his affected nerves and also removed a rib. 

After the surgery, Carpenter then believed he could come back and pitch this season, but he also knew that might be an unrealistic goal. At worst, he figured the timing of the procedure would give him more time to prepare for spring training in February.

“It’s hard to believe not too long ago that they took a rib from this guy,” said St. Louis manager Mike Matheny, who was also Carpenter’s catcher when the two were on the Toronto Blue Jays in 1999. “I applaud our medical staff, but I applaud Chris Carpenter for what he’s been able to do. And to go out and not just go out there, but to compete like Chris Carpenter always has, and then the stuff to go along with it. [It’s] just beyond words the amount of respect that everybody in that clubhouse has for him.”

After making only three starts this year prior to Wednesday, Carpenter finally returned to his familiar level of dominance. He bent without breaking for most of the game, allowing Nationals batters to consistently reach base but getting key outs to strand them there. He also improved to 10-2 with a career 2.97 ERA in postseason play.

“He’s the guy that pitches in big games. He made pitches when he needed to,” Ryan Zimmerman said. “It’s easy to say we need to get big hits, but when you have a guy like that making pitches, he’s not just letting you get hits.”

Added Nationals manager Davey Johnson: “I didn’t think Carpenter had his best stuff, but he didn’t give in to anybody.”

Carpenter’s strong outing ensured that the Cardinals will get to play at least one game longer. The Nationals will face a must-win situation with Ross Detwiler on the mound Thursday afternoon, while St. Louis needs to win only one of the next two games to advance to the National League Championship Series for the second straight season.

If and when the Cardinals advance, they can look to Carpenter as a big reason why.

“I don’t think anybody has to say any more than I’ve already said about Chris Carpenter,” Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday said. “Every guy on this team has watched him work his way back and watches him in between starts. He’s a stud. He’s just a guy you want out there and a guy you enjoy being teammates with. When I’m done playing, one day I’ll get to say I was teammates with Chris Carpenter. I’ll be proud of that.”

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