ST. LOUIS — Over and over, Chris Carpenter insisted his elbow was fine. Sure, he got treatment, but who isn't sore this time of the year?
There was no letup from the Cardinals ace, who gave his all on defense and kept it close for six innings in Wednesday night's 3-2 victory over the Rangers in the World Series opener.
He became the first Cardinals pitcher to go six innings since his three-hit shutout over the Phillies in the deciding Game 5 of the NL Division Series.
Carpenter, 36, improved to 3-0 this postseason and his eighth career postseason win tied Yankees closer Mariano Rivera for the most among active pitchers.
But his willingness to sacrifice his body to make a play on the second batter he faced had to impress his teammates.
With one out in the first, 1B Albert Pujols ranged far to his right to field Elvis Andrus' grounder, and Carpenter had to dive to snare a low, long-distance toss. While sliding, Carpenter tagged the base with the glove then slapped it again with his right hand to make sure, then pulling it back just in time to avoid Andrus' cleat.
YES TO NOWITZKI: Hours after reports surfaced that the Rangers were denied permission to have Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki throw out a ceremonial first pitch, Major League Baseball appears to have had a change of heart.
MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said the NBA Finals MVP was invited to throw out the first pitch before Game 3 in Arlington. Courtney told ESPN.com that commissioner Bud Selig made the call because he felt Nowitzki should be involved.
ESPN reported earlier that MLB had nixed the Rangers' invitation to Nowitzki, possibly as a show of solidarity with NBA owners during the labor showdown.
HOLLIDAY HEALING: Cardinals LF Matt Holliday has battled a sore right hand in the postseason, but with a few days off since the end of the NLCS, he's close to full strength. "I feel pretty good about where I'm at," he told MLB.com. "I think (the off days) have been beneficial to everybody. One playoff game is similar to playing four regular-season games … how taxing mentally and physically they can be."
GOOD KARMA: Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Bruce Sutter and injured ace Adam Wainwright — the pitchers who were on the mound for the final out of the Cardinals' past three World Series championships — threw out the ceremonial first pitch.