Carpenter a mound of trouble for Cubs

CHICAGO (AP) -- Chris Carpenter is baseball's best pitcher, at
least according to his manager.

Carpenter pitched another impressive complete game to become the
first 17-game winner in the major leagues, and Albert Pujols hit a
two-run homer Saturday in the St. Louis Cardinals' 5-2 victory over
the Chicago Cubs.

Carpenter (17-4) threw an eight-hitter for his major
league-leading sixth complete game, striking out eight and walking
none to lower his ERA to 2.25. The only blemish came in the third
inning when he gave up a two-run homer to Aramis Ramirez.

"He pitched nine innings against a tough offensive club --
that's dominating," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "He had
a 2-0 pitch to a terrific hitter and he hit the ball out of the
state. But that's the last run they got. That's outstanding
pitching. No disrespect to anybody in either league who's doing
great, but there's nobody greater than Chris. He's clutch."

Jon Garland of the Chicago White Sox had 16 wins going into his
start Saturday night against Boston.

Carpenter gave up six hits in the first three innings, but
quickly settled down to win his ninth straight decision. He retired
13 of 14 hitters between the third and seventh.

"I just try to continue to go out and give my team a chance to
win," Carpenter said. "With the defense and offense we have
playing behind me, you're going to win a lot of ballgames."

Cubs manager Dusty Baker thought his team had some chances early
against Carpenter.

"The guy can pitch, but we had an opportunity to beat him
today, just like we had an opportunity to beat him in St. Louis and
he gets off the hook," Baker said. "He wasn't sharp early, he
hung some breaking balls we hit hard, but we didn't find any

The Cubs have lost nine of 11.

The game started after a 2-hour, 42-minute rain delay, and the
Cardinals got their first run in the second inning. With runners on
first and second with two outs, Mike Mahoney broke an 0-for-20
slump with an RBI single, scoring John Mabry from second.

In the third inning, Cubs starter Jerome Williams (3-6) walked
leadoff hitter David Eckstein. One out later, Pujols hit a 2-1
pitch into the seats in right field. It was his 33rd homer of the
season, giving St. Louis a 3-0 lead.

Leading 3-2 in the seventh, the Cardinals padded their lead on
two aggressive hit and run calls. Cubs reliever Scott Williamson
walked Carpenter to start the inning. With the pitcher running on
the next pitch, Eckstein singled to right, moving Carpenter to

John Rodriguez followed with an RBI single to right. Eckstein,
who was running on the pitch, went to third. With one out and the
bases loaded, Abraham Nunez hit a bouncer to Ramirez at third base.
Ramirez fielded the ball and touched third for the force, but threw
wildly to Derrek Lee at first. The ball got by Lee, allowing
Eckstein to score and giving the Cardinals a 5-2 lead.

Eckstein likes playing for La Russa because of his aggressive

"That's something Tony does a lot. I knew something was going
to happen. We weren't going to sit still. We were going to put
things in motion. I enjoy it," Eckstein said.

Matt Lawton led off with a single in the Cubs' third. With two
outs, Carpenter gave up Ramirez's 29th homer. The ball landed on
Waveland Avenue and cut the Cardinals' lead to 3-2.

Carpenter got some help in the sixth inning when Rodriguez
jumped into the ivy in left and brought down Michael Barrett's

Williams pitched six innings, allowing three runs and four hits.
He struck out a season-high seven and walked four.

Game notes
Chicago OF Jeromy Burnitz broke an 0-for-12 skid and a
3-for-36 slump with three hits. ... Corey Patterson robbed Pujols
of extra bases in the fifth with a sliding catch in center. ...
Carpenter's last loss came against Boston on June 8.