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World Series Game 1: What To Look For From Chris Carpenter, Cardinals

Game 1 of the 2011 World Series is set for Wednesday night, and St. Louis' ace Chris Carpenter will be on the mound -- thanks to the Cardinals finishing off the Brewers in six. 

Carpenter has been good, mediocre and ugly for the Cardinals in their postseason run. Starting with the ugly, Carpenter only lasted three innings in his first start in the 2011 playoffs against the Phillies, though that comes with an asterisk: it was Carpenter's first career start on short rest. Clearly, it was a failed experiment for Tony La Russa and Carpenter.

Carpenter's mediocre start came in Game 3 of the NLCS against the Brewers. Staked to an early 4-0 lead, Carpenter gave three runs in just five innings, surrendering six hits while walking three. 

The good, though, for Carpenter has been great.

In a do-or-die Game 5 of the NLDS, Carpenter outpitched Roy Halladay in a 1-0 instant classic game. Carpenter went the distance, allowing just three hits while striking out three as the Cardinals shocked the baseball world by ousting the Phillies in the NLDS.

So, what should you be looking for from Carpenter tonight? Pitch location. Unlike Texas' 2010 World Series opponent, the Cardinals don't have the potential to dominate with strikeouts like Tim Lincecum could. Carpenter has only struck out eight batters in 17 innings of work in the postseason, so he needs to be able to locate his pitches.

When Carpenter is on, like he was against the Phillies, he'll keep the ball low in the zone and establish the inner part of the strike zone. In that complete game, Carpenter threw 110 pitches, and 70 of them went for strikes - a solid 64%. Against the Brewers, Carpenter threw 89 pitches in five innings, with only 48 going for strikes, a 10% drop off.

If Carpenter leaves the ball up in the zone, the Rangers have to pounce and capitalize on Carpenter's mistakes if they want to win. 

Offensively, I'd keep my eye on Matt Holliday. Holliday had been battling a tendon injury, which had him sidelined for the first three games of the NLDS, as well as a good chunk of the final two weeks of the regular season. It took him awhile to get his timing right, but in the last three games of the NLCS, Holliday had seven hits, with three of them going for extra bases, and has showed the ability to drive the inside pitch -- something that he hadn't been able to do since injuring himself. 

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.