Just three teams in 32 series have come back to win a Division Series after losing Game 1, stacking the odds against the Cardinals after they fell, 11-6, to the Phillies on Saturday.
"The stats, they never lie," quipped outfielder Lance Berkman. "So go with that."
The Cardinals didn't respond after dropping Game 1 of the 2009 National League Division Series against the Dodgers and were eventually swept. They're well aware of the statistical history pointing toward a quick ending to their fairy-tale season, but that doesn't seem to matter.
"That's why it's three out of five, it's not a one-game series," said first baseman Albert Pujols, who went 1-for-3 with a walk and left the game in the top of the ninth with discomfort in his left ankle. "That's why we have to go back tomorrow and tie it 1-1. I think we can do that again right here and then hope home-field advantage is going to go our way."
It doesn't hurt knowing ace Chris Carpenter will be on the mound, albeit on just three days' rest for the first time in his career. Carpenter threw a two-hit, 105-pitch shutout on Wednesday, striking out 11 batters as the Cardinals clinched a postseason berth on the final day of the regular season.
"I'm excited about it, to be honest with you," Carpenter said. "I feel like in Houston the other day, I didn't work too hard, didn't throw too many pitches and I've come out of it nicely. ... My body is healthy, I feel good and I'm strong."
Carpenter's opposition on Sunday, Cliff Lee, said that every pitcher should have no problem pitching on three days' rest.
"They used to have four-man rotations, so it's definitely possible," Lee said. "And this is a time when it's do or die; it's win or go home. So if you're an extreme competitor like Carpenter is, you're willing to do things like that."
If anyone's prepared to do it, it's Carpenter. The 36-year-old led the NL in innings (237 1/3) and has only gotten better as the season has progressed. Since June 23, Carpenter is 10-2 with a 2.73 ERA and finished the regular season allowing just one run on 15 hits over 24 innings.
Carpenter said that earlier in the year, he was having trouble avoiding big innings.
"I continue to do all those things to not fade and to be strong, because this is the most important time," said Carpenter, who has a 5-2 career record in the playoffs. "And for me, I think that you can take a lot -- you can take a big advantage of yourself being stronger at the end."
Sunday's matchup, which was moved to 8:30 p.m. ET on TBS to accommodate the Yankees-Tigers postponement on Friday, is geared for a pitchers' duel. Lee is 7-2 with a 2.13 ERA in the playoffs and is averaging nearly eight innings a start.
But against the NL's best offense, even a pitcher of Lee's caliber will have to be on his toes.
"That's a team that you've got to be careful with," Lee said. "I mean, really any team in the postseason, but especially a team that's been having to fight as long as they have to get there can be dangerous."
The Cardinals are hoping for a better fate against Lee than they did against Roy Halladay on Saturday, when they scored three runs on Berkman's homer in the first inning but couldn't take advantage.
"I guess you could say that, but it is what it is," said Berkman. "We had an opportunity. ... You have to beat those guys three to whatever. You're not going to do much more than that."
Especially at Citizens Bank Park, where Lee has collected an astounding 2.06 ERA and 183 strikeouts in 170 1/3 innings and where the Phillies are feeling mighty good after taking a 1-0 lead on the NL's hottest team.
"It's huge, especially at home," said first baseman Ryan Howard. "You have to protect that home-field advantage, especially going up against a team like St. Louis who is a lot like us. They don't give up until that 27th out is made, and they showed that tonight."
Cardinals: Holliday still a question mark
Matt Holliday's injured right middle finger nearly kept him off the postseason roster, but manager Tony La Russa wanted to make sure his star outfielder was at least available as an option off the bench.
La Russa turned to Holliday on Saturday, sending him up as a pinch-hitter with two outs in the ninth inning, a five-run deficit and two runners in scoring position. Holliday failed to put the ball in play, striking out swinging on a Ryan Madson fastball, but La Russa didn't rule out the possibility of Holliday starting on Sunday.
"That's one of the things, I wanted him to hit," La Russa said. "First of all, the game was there. But I'll be interested to see how he came out of it."
If Holliday does start, La Russa said he'd take his customary spot in left field, moving Berkman, who played left on Saturday, back to right field.
Marc Rzepczynski's postseason debut didn't go as expected for the Cardinals, as the young left-hander could not record an out in the seventh inning. He allowed three straight hits, including a leadoff single to Halladay, and all of the runners scored after he was removed from the game.
Mitchell Boggs didn't fare much better, allowing two runs in 1 2/3 innings while throwing 36 pitches.
"[The Phillies] did a good job of hitting the misses, and we did a bad job of not putting hitters away," La Russa said.
Phillies: Utley fine batting second
Chase Utley took over the No. 2 spot in the order and had a productive game, going 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles and three runs on Saturday. It's a spot he's hit very well out of in the past, carrying a .314 batting average and a .919 OPS over 727 at-bats.
But Utley's disappointing season, in which he hit .259, may have played a part in his move in the order, with general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. admitting Utley's balky right knee played a role in the decision.
"I think part of it is [Utley's] inability to keep his leg strong during the course of this time," Amaro said. "He wasn't able to do as many things with his legs, which is probably the most important part of hitting, strength-wise. I think that has something to do with it. But he's still a very dangerous hitter."
Howard's three-run home run in the sixth inning Saturday pushed him into the all-time franchise lead in postseason RBIs with 30. It was the eighth homer of Howard's playoff career.