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10/17/11 4:04 AM ET

Clinch allows Carpenter to get call in Game 1

St. Louis avoids Game 7 in NLCS, so ace opens World Series

MILWAUKEE -- As if the Cardinals didn't have enough reasons to celebrate their 18th trip to the World Series in franchise history on Sunday night, they know they have an added bonus going into Game 1 of the Fall Classic against the Rangers.

With their 12-6 win over the Brewers in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series on Sunday, the Cards can now go with their ace Chris Carpenter in the opener, which is a first this postseason, as Kyle Lohse started Game 1 of the NL Division Series against the Phillies and Jaime Garcia started the first game of the NLCS.

But manager Tony La Russa wouldn't officially confirm Carpenter will be Wednesday's Game 1 starter, saying only it was crucial to win on Sunday so he didn't have to go to Carpenter in a Game 7 against Milwaukee on Monday.

"The only thing I'll concede to you is that last night, I started messing around with the rotation if we won today or tomorrow, and it was really important if we could win today," La Russa said. "That's all I'm going to tell you. Other than that, we were concentrating on the Brewers."

But St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak wasn't as discreet, saying Carpenter will be the starter in Game 1 when he was asked if the bullpen -- which will also get two days of rest before Game 1 -- will be vital to his club's success in the World Series.

"I would anticipate it at this point," Mozeliak said, "but Carpenter will get Game 1, so perhaps he'll go deeper in the game for us."

Carpenter did go the deepest into a game out of the Cardinals' four starters in the NLCS, but he only went five innings in St. Louis' Game 3 victory.

Carpenter allowed three runs on six hits and three walks in that outing, and didn't quite look like the same pitcher who threw a shutout against the Phils in Game 5 of the NLDS.

La Russa, however, defended Carpenter, saying his arm is not sore and it was a difficult task to replicate his heroic effort that sent the Cards into the NLCS.

"That was an unbelievable high that he had to get to, and all of a sudden it's five days later and you're cranking up to be exactly the same place," La Russa said. "Even as great as he is, that's a difficult thing to do. Carp is where he was the last two months, strong, and we like playing behind him."

Carpenter finished off the season on a tear, posting a 1.13 ERA over his final five starts, including a shutout in the last game of the regular season to send the Cardinals to the postseason after they were trailing by 10 1/2 games in the NL Wild Card in late August.

The former NL Cy Young Award winner and three-time All-Star posted a 3.45 ERA during the season, while leading the NL with 237 1/3 innings pitched.

But those numbers don't mean much to Carpenter, as he's more interested in the No. 3 -- as in the number of times the Redbirds have reached the World Series during his eight seasons with the club.

Carpenter missed the 2004 World Series due to injury, but he tossed eight scoreless innings against the Tigers in his lone start during the '06 World Series, which was won by the Cards in five games.

So Carpenter said he's looking forward to pitching in another World Series, and that the thought crossed his mind in the ninth inning of St. Louis' win in Game 6.

"I thought about that in the last inning, about how unbelievable it is to not only be in the postseason but have the opportunity to go to the World Series three times," Carpenter said. "I've played with many guys who never got to play in the postseason and were around for a long time. It's a great credit to the organization, ownership, coaches and our club."

So with Carpenter expected to be on the mound in the World Series opener opposite Rangers probable starter C.J. Wilson, the Cardinals have plenty of confidence going into the first game.

The Cards haven't announced the official order of their rotation -- Carpenter is expected to be followed by Garcia, Edwin Jackson and Kyle Lohse -- but they at least know what to expect with their ace on the mound in Game 1.

"That's going to help, for sure," right fielder Lance Berkman said. "Carp is our guy, so it's great to be able to run him out there for the first game of the series. It's important, because when you're playing a team as talented as the Rangers, you want to get off to a good start, and hopefully we can do that."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.