Atlanta Braves pitcher David Carpenter is playing the role of the scapegoat this week. The rocket-armed reliever was saddled with the loss in Game 4 of the NLDS versus the Los Angeles Dodgers after allowing a one-run lead to become a one-run deficit on a single swing of the bat by Juan Uribe. That result brought the series to an abrupt end advancing the Dodgers to the second round of the playoffs. However, Carpenter’s contributions to the team this season need to be remembered favorably and not completely overshadowed by an ill-fated hanging slider.
The Braves selected Carpenter off of waivers on Nov. 30, 2012 after he was released by the Boston Red Sox. Trying to rebound from a season that saw him struggle to an 8.07 ERA and a WHIP north of 2.00, there was little chance of the former 12th-round pick breaking camp with the big league club heading into 2013.
As the regular season got underway, Carpenter found himself at Triple-A Gwinnett serving as organizational depth. The stay in the Minors turned out to be short lived. Misfortune struck the Braves bullpen over the first 5-to-6 weeks sending one prominent arm after another to the disabled list. Carpenter quickly got his shot and took advantage of the opportunity.
May 10 marked the Braves debut of the West Virginia native. That particular Friday night, Carpenter took the mound in relief of a struggling Tim Hudson. He did not look all that sharp in giving up two earned runs through two and a third, but what came during the next few weeks was just what the doctor ordered for the ailing ‘pen.
After that initial outing, Carpenter cruised right through his next 10 appearances giving up no earned runs with a dozen strikeouts in just over 12 innings pitched. The stretch made him a fixture of the Braves relief corp, as manager Fredi Gonzalez called upon him time and again for the duration of the regular season.
Carpenter rewarded his manager’s faith by producing what could be referred to as a “breakout”. He recorded 12 holds while putting up an outstanding 1.78 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in his third year at the highest level. Add his 10.1 K/9 to those numbers and you have a solid idea of what the 28 year old meant to the Braves run toward a division championship.
The discouraging end to the season will stick in the minds of fans for quite some time. Let’s be honest, it was terribly heartbreaking. On the other hand, the Braves may not have even reached that point without Carpenter. For that, he deserves a ton of credit.