Cardinals blow late lead, lose in Chris Carpenter’s return

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The good news for the Cardinals is that Chris Carpenter, originally thought to be out for the season after surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, turned in a successful five-inning stint Friday in his 2012 debut.

The bad news is that the bullpen blew a two-run lead in the ninth, and the Cards went on to lose to the Cubs 5-4 in 11 innings.

Darwin Barney hit a two-run homer off Fernando Salas with two outs in the ninth to extend the game. Salas was going for the save in place of regular closer Jason Motte, who had the day off after working in all three games in the sweep of Houston.

The Cubs ended it in the 11th when David DeJesus knocked in Brett Jackson with his fourth hit of the day.

Carpenter’s start went off without a hitch. While he wasn’t exactly in midseason form with either his fastball or curve, he held the Cubs scoreless in four of his five innings. He ended up allowing five hits, walking one, striking out two and hitting a batter. His heater was typically in the 88-91 mph range, which is pretty promising considering that he’s still so ahead of schedule in his recovery. Maybe he’ll get back closer to his usual 90-94 mph come playoff time, should the Cardinals advance.

While the loss today snapped the Cardinals’ four-game winning streak, the team remains in position for the second wild card. They’ll end the night with at least a 1 1/2-game lead over the Brewers.

Jackie Bradley, Jr. named ALCS MVP

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Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. was named the Most Valuable Player of the American League Championship Series after his club punched its ticket to the World Series on Thursday night against the Astros.

Coincidentally, the Astros’ Game 5 starter Justin Verlander was ALCS MVP last year en route to a championship.

Bradley went 0-for-3 with a walk in Thursday’s Game 5, but he hit a three-run double in Game 2, a grand slam in Game 3, and a go-ahead two-run home run in Game 4. That’s nine RBI and three extra-base hits across five games. He also drew four walks.

Though Bradley had a solid regular season, he was not near the top of the list most people would’ve expected to win ALCS MVP heading into the series. During the season, he hit .234/.314/.403 with 13 home runs, 59 RBI, 76 runs scored, and 17 stolen bases in 535 plate appearances.