WASHINGTON, D.C. - Big game, big moment, big performance.
It's Chris Carpenter's style of baseball and in the post-season, especially, it's the way the big St. Louis Cardinals right-hander rolls.
Following a 12-4 pasting Monday over the Washington Nationals in St. Louis, the Cardinals were a confident crew Wednesday when they entered Nationals Park. They were confident because the ace and horse of previous campaigns was being handed the ball.
Because of injuries and surgery, Carpenter's season was limited to just three starts in September but when the team needed him again in a big game he was there to answer the bell.
Backed by a barrage of early runs -- the big blow being a three-run homer by Pete Kozma in the second inning -- the Cardinals rolled over the Nats 8-0 to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five division series.
They can deliver the knockout blow Thursday evening with Kyle Lohse making the start.
Carpenter, 37, is the undisputed leader on the Cardinals staff and the fact he was able to make it back this season and pitch in the post-season was an inspiration to his teammates.
"Well, that's Carp. We expect him to give us a quality start and he did," left fielder Matt Holliday said about his teammate. "He went out there and pitched. We gave him a little bit of a lead and with a lead he is very difficult. I'm not surprised and he pitched great."
Holliday's admiration and praise for his for his teammate didn't stop there.
"I don't think anybody has to say any more than they've already said about Chris Carpenter. If the baseball world doesn't know what an amazing competitor he is they haven't been paying attention. This guy, every guy on this team has watched him work his way back, 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 be able to say I was teammates with Chris Carpenter. I'll be proud of that."
Over 5 2/3 innings -- 106 pitches -- Carpenter blanked the reeling Nationals, holding them to seven hits, walking two and striking out two.
A big-game hunter, he was able to make the big pitches when he needed them.
"I think Carp has been a warrior for the last 10 years over here," catcher Yadier Molina said. "So he brings that warrior in here, he showed it one more time here (Wednesday). He's a warrior every time he gets to the mound. You expect to win the game and that's how we look at it. It's good to have him back."
For the second consecutive game the Nationals appeared overwhelmed and anxious.
The Cardinals' experience was supposed to even out the fact the Nats rang up more wins than any other team in the big leagues -- 98. It's their trump card and they are playing it to perfection.
"We've been here so many times before," Molina said. "We're swinging the bat pretty good, too. We're playing the right game now, playing good baseball now and when that happens you've got a good chance to win the game."
Nothing, it seems, is going right for the Nats.
They aren't getting the starting pitching and they can't come up with the big hit when they need it.
In this game they were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left 11 runners on base.
And for all their great young talent, they don't have a veteran stud like Carpenter to show them the way.
"You have to tip your hat to Carpenter," Washington manager Davey Johnson said. "I didn't think he had great stuff but he didn't give the hitters any good pitches and that's the name of the game."
The Cards struck for a run in the first inning and in the second, Kozma took the crowd of 45,017 -- a record for Nationals Park -- out of it with his three-run shot to left to make it a 4-0 game. The Nationals never recovered.
Johnson, however, is far from conceding defeat.
"We are not out of this by a long shot," he said. "Keep us in the ball game tomorrow, get a few key hits, we're right back in it.
"Shoot, I've had my back to worse walls than this. I like my ball club and I think we'll come out and play a good game (Thursday)."
They better. They have no choice.