Downing beers in a hotel room doesn't seem the ideal setting to practice mind control, but Chris Carpenter recalled when he and Roy Halladay did so as teammates in Toronto.
At the time, they were two righthanders still trying to find their way, intrigued by a book titled The Mental ABC's of Pitching by the late Harvey Dorfman, learning how to mentally clear out the clutter.
"If you can't figure out how to get rid of [the distraction], it's pretty tough to execute what you're trying to do," the Cardinals' big righthander said Saturday.
For Carpenter and Halladay, routine has been a pathway to mind control, and Carpenter's routine will be thrown off by a day when he starts against the Phillies in Sunday night's Game 2 of the National League division series at Citizens Bank Park.
Carpenter will go against Cliff Lee in the most intriguing pitching matchup of the series. It's not likely Lee had to read anything to learn how to keep it simple. The lefthander is a master at it.
But for the 36-year-old Carpenter, pitching with three days of rest instead of the usual four will be a departure.
"I don't know if I've ever done it," he said. "Somebody brought it to my attention that I hadn't. Anyway, I'm excited about it. My body is healthy. I feel strong."
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa moved Carpenter up a day so Carpenter could start twice if the series goes five games. The day after Carpenter pitched a two-hit shutout in Wednesday's win over Houston to get the wild-card spot, he told La Russa he was ready for Game 2 if needed.
"Chris is our horse," La Russa said.
Carpenter said he got stronger as the season went along, and the numbers back him up. In six September starts, he had two shutouts and a 2.15 earned run average. In his career against the Phillies, he's 7-2 in 11 starts, but the Phillies have banged him around at times. His ERA against the Phillies is 4.14, and he has yielded 73 hits in 712/3 innings. The Phillies hit .261 against him with 11 home runs in those games.
"These guys grind out professional at-bats," Carpenter said of the Phillies. "It's a great competition for a pitcher to go against a lineup like this."
While Carpenter hasn't pitched in the postseason since 2006, Lee is in the playoffs for the third straight season, although last year he was in a Texas uniform. It's been well-chronicled that Lee turned away bigger offers from the Yankees and Rangers to return to the Phillies. He thrives on the sellout crowds, who cheer his every move, even when he strikes out.
"I know the fans respect the way I play the game and respect the fact that I came back here and stuff like that," he said. "And that's good. But I think what makes me is my ability to focus on what I'm doing and stay locked into the game and what I need to do to be successful, and I think the fans respect that."
Lee has met with little resistance when pitching against St. Louis. In four starts, he's 3-1 with a 1.48 ERA. The Cardinals batted .213 against him in those games.
Lee, who will have one more day than usual to prepare for this start, has never pitched on three days of rest like Carpenter will, but he shrugged when asked what the demands might be.
"I think we should all be able to do it," he said. "Every pitcher back in the day did it all the time. Obviously, this is a very routine-oriented game, and once you've established a routine that you're going to pitch every five days and you get off that, it can feel different. If you're an extreme competitor like Carpenter is, you're willing to do things like that."