It's Over

It's Over

Stunned.

Chris Carpenter dominated tonight as the Cardinals came into Citizens Bank Park and won Game Five of the NLDS 1-0 over the Phillies.

Aside from what has become an all too familiar first inning hiccup, Roy Halladay was fantastic. The lone run of the game came in the first when Rafael Furcal led off with a triple. Skip Schumaker fouled off pitch after pitch, a Cardinal grinding out yet another at-bat, before lacing an off-speed pitch for an RBI double.

Doc settled down and was in command the rest of the way. He received no help from the offense, which managed only three hits on the night. The Phils seemed unwilling, or unable, to mimic the patient approach employed by the Cardinals throughout the series.

Never was this more true than in the bottom of the seventh when Ryan Howard swung at a 3-0 pitch, flying out to right. Howard was not alone in his ineptitude. Raul Ibanez, Placido Polanco, and Carlos Ruiz combined to go 0-9 on the night. Jimmy Rollins, in what could have been his final game in a Phillies uniform, went 0-4.

Chase Utley and Shane Victorino combined for all three Phillies hits. Utley, who also reached base on a HBP, was thrown out trying to steal second in the bottom of the sixth after singling off of Carpenter. Aside from Hunter Pence reaching third base in the fourth, the Phillies never really threatened Carpenter.

The Cardinals made a handful of stellar defensive plays. Molina threw out Utley trying to steal second. Furcal made an unbelievable diving stop and throw to get Chooch on a bang-bang play at first. Nick Punto fielded a ball hit by Rollins that ricocheted off of Carpenter. Aside from a dropped third strike by Molina, enabling pinch hitter Ross Gload to reach first, the Cardinals did not give the Phillies any extra outs.

Carpenter finished what he started, and got the Phils to go down in order in the ninth. Utley drove a ball to deep center, but Jon Jay tracked it down on the warning track. Pence then grounded out to third, setting the stage for Ryan Howard.

After getting caught with the bat on his shoulder to end the NLCS last season, Howard stepped to plate needing to reach base to avoid making the final out in consecutive seasons. He worked the count to 2-2 before grounding out weakly to second.

He barely made it out of the box, suffering a lower leg injury as he was running to first. The final unfortunate image of Howard slumped along the first base line will be the lasting takeaway from this disappointing end to a record-breaking regular season.

Pitchers and catchers report in a little over four months.

Photo Credit: Howard Smith - US PRESSWIRE

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final.

Chris Kunitz beat Craig Anderson 5:09 into the second overtime to give the defending champions a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night.

Kunitz scored twice, his first two of the playoffs. Justin Schultz added the other in his return from an upper-body injury, and Matt Murray stopped 28 shots on his 23rd birthday.

The Penguins are trying to become the first team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998 to win back-to-back titles. They will host Western Conference champion Nashville in Game 1 on Monday night.

Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel scored for Ottawa. The Senators rallied twice to tie it, with Dzingel making it 2-2 with 5:19 left in regulation.

Craig Anderson made 39 saves, but couldn't get a handle on Kunitz's shot from just outside the left circle. The Senators are 0-6 in Game 7s in franchise history.

The Senators forced a return trip to Pittsburgh -- where they lost 7-0 loss in Game 5 on Sunday -- by leaning heavily on Anderson in a 2-1 Game 6 victory, putting both teams at odds with history.

Ottawa came in 0-for-25 years in winner-take-all games, while the Penguins were 0-7 in Game 7s at home in series in which they also dropped Game 6.

Ottawa coach Guy Boucher told his resilient team to not get caught up in the big picture but instead focus on the small ones, a recipe that carried the Senators throughout a bumpy transition under their first-year head coach to the brink of the franchise's second Cup appearance.

The Penguins, trying to become the first defending champion to return to the finals since Detroit in 2009, came in confident they would advance if they could replicate their dominant Game 6, when they were undone only by Anderson's brilliance.

Pittsburgh has been nearly unflappable in the face of adversity under Mike Sullivan, going 12-2 in playoff games following a loss over the last two springs. He encouraged his team to "just play," code for fighting through Ottawa's neutral zone-clogging style and the bumping, grabbing and pulling that comes along with it.

A chance to play for their sport's ultimate prize on the line, the sheets of open ice the Penguins found so easily in Games 4-6 closed up. For most of the first 30 minutes, loose pucks hopped over sticks to spoil some scoring opportunities while Anderson and Murray gobbled up the rest.

Kunitz, relegated to the fourth line since returning from injury in the second round, picked up his first postseason goal in a calendar year when he completed a two-on-one with Conor Sheary -- a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 -- by slipping the puck by Anderson 9:55 into the second period.

The momentum lasted all of 20 seconds. Ottawa responded immediately with Stone -- who stretched his left skate to stay onside -- fired a wrist shot that handcuffed Murray.

Pittsburgh kept coming. Schultz, returning after missing four games with an upper-body injury, zipped a shot from the point through Kunitz's screen and into the net with 8:16 left in the third.

Once again, the Penguins could not hold the lead. Dzingel set up at the right post and banged home a rebound off Erik Karlsson's shot that hit the left post and caromed off Murray's back right to Dzingel's stick.

Notes
The home team is 21-20 in overtime Game 7s in NHL playoff history. ... Pittsburgh F Patric Hornqvist skated during warmups, but was held out of the lineup for a sixth straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Karlsson had 16 assists in the playoffs to set a team record. ... The Penguins are 10-7 in Game 7s. ... It was the fifth one-goal game of the series.

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick experienced a painful rehab start on Thursday night.

Rehabbing with Triple A Lehigh Valley, Kendrick was hit by a pitch twice before being removed after the sixth inning of the IronPigs' 8-4 loss to Indianapolis at Coca-Cola Park.

Both times Kendrick was plunked in the upper left arm, according to Tom Housenick of the Morning Call.

There was no update on if Kendrick was injured or taken out for precautionary reasons. Thursday marked Kendrick's second rehab start as he recovers from an oblique strain that has sidelined him since April 15.

The Phillies' leftfielder started at third base Thursday. At the beginning of his rehab assignment, Kendrick was expected to play four games and see time at third and first base, as well as in left field.

Kendrick made a throwing error at third on Thursday and finished 0 for 1 with a run scored. In his two games, he's 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.

Kendrick hit .333 with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs in 10 games with the Phillies prior to landing on the DL.

When he returns, he could see time at third base instead of left field if Maikel Franco continues to struggle (see story).