ATLANTA — Losing Chris Carpenter for 161 games is bad enough. Knowing your ace will miss a considerable chunk of 2008 is far worse.
The St. Louis right-hander, the 2005 NL Cy Young winner, will undergo elbow ligament replacement surgery next week.
The procedure, commonly known as Tommy John surgery, means that Carpenter can’t anchor a pitching staff that helped the Cardinals win the 2006 World Series.
“He’s as good as anybody out there,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said after a 10-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Thursday night. “We’re going to miss him. Everybody knows what he means to us.”
The Cardinals have used nine different starting pitchers this season, but nobody on the roster compares to Carpenter.
In five postseason starts last year, Carpenter went 3-1, helping the Cardinals win the World Series with eight scoreless innings in a 5-0 victory over Detroit in Game 3. He is 51-18 with a 3.10 ERA in 93 starts for St. Louis over the last three seasons.
From the start of 2004 through the end of 2006, Carpenter’s victory total ranked third in the majors. Only Minnesota’s Johan Santana and Houston’s Roy Oswalt, both with 55, had more wins.
“We’re more concerned for him than for us,” La Russa said. “He’s a stallion. He’s a prince. It eats his heart out when he has to miss one game. He’ll have to fight a lonely battle.”
Carpenter hasn’t pitched since allowing five runs in six innings of a season-opening loss to the New York Mets. After going on the disabled list April 2, Carpenter had arthroscopic surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow on May 9.
He developed swelling and stiffness after a rehab start for Class-A Palm Beach on July 8.
“When they removed three spurs, we thought that would be the end of it,” La Russa said. “It wasn’t until the first part of this week that I heard ‘ligament’ for the first time.”
The Cardinals did not announce what day Carpenter will undergo surgery.
St. Louis, which scored its only run Thursday night on David Eckstein’s sacrifice fly in the sixth, has lost four of seven since the All-Star break.
Andruw Jones hit a home run and drove in three runs to back seven strong innings by Tim Hudson, and the Atlanta Braves ended a three-game skid in the victory. Matt Diaz, whose solo home run in the second made it 3-0, finished 3-for-4 with 3 RBIs. The Braves have won 13 of 20 despite a three-game sweep by Cincinnati this week.
Mike Maroth (0-3) gave up all of Atlanta’s runs. The left-hander walked three and gave up 11 hits without a strikeout. The worst stretch was the five-run fourth, when he allowed six straight hits with two outs.
“I just couldn’t get that third out,” Maroth said. “They kept getting hits. I didn’t get it done. I never gave my team a chance to win. I got down from the first inning, and it kept getting worse.”
Following a 10-4 loss at Philadelphia on Saturday, Maroth has a 13.09 ERA in his last two starts, allowing 20 hits and five homers in a span of 11 innings.
“He’s in a rut,” La Russa said. “He’s not himself.”
Hudson (10-5) beat the Cardinals for the 10th time in his career, but this start marked the first time he was dominant. The right-hander, who struck out three and gave up one run and five hits, entered with a 4.85 ERA in a span of 26 innings against St. Louis. Through his first five innings, Hudson allowed just one batter, Eckstein in the first, to get in scoring position.