Cardinals and Brewers to meet in NLCS

St. Louis Cardinals' Rafael Furcal, center, reacts after getting safely to third on his triple during the first inning of baseball's Game 5 of the National League division series with the Philadelphia Phillies, Oct. 7, 2011 in Philadelphia.
Pool,AP Photo/Matt Slocum

PHILADELPHIA - Chris Carpenter tossed a three-hitter to outpitch old pal Roy Halladay in a duel for the ages and the St. Louis Cardinals edged the Philadelphia Phillies 1-0 Friday night in the deciding Game 5 of their NL playoff series.

The wild-card Cardinals scored in the first inning when Rafael Furcal led off with a triple and Skip Schumaker followed with a double.

And that was it.

Heavily favored Philadelphia never broke through against Carpenter. Ryan Howard grounded out to end the game and hurt his leg coming out of the batter's box — he limped a couple of steps and crumpled to the ground as St. Louis started to celebrate.

The Cardinals needed a monumental collapse by Atlanta in the final month and major help from the 102-win Phillies just to reach the playoffs. Now they're heading to Milwaukee for the NL championship series starting Sunday following a stunning upset in which they beat three of Philadelphia's four aces: Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt.

Three of baseball's four opening-round matchups went to a deciding Game 5, and all of them were pitching-rich thrillers. Detroit held off the New York Yankees 3-2 on Thursday night, and Milwaukee beat Arizona in 10 innings earlier Friday.

Then, the showdown between Carpenter and Halladay topped them all.

Trailing two games to one, the Cardinals began their comeback with a win in Game 4. That night in St. Louis, a squirrel scampered across home plate as Schumaker batted in the middle innings — if the Cardinals keep winning, their fans will certainly go nuts, thanks to their "Rally Squirrel."

Coincidentally, a squirrel was caught at Citizens Bank Park before Game 5. Not a good omen, apparently, for the Phillies.

Carpenter was over 100 pitches when he took the mound in the ninth. He retired Chase Utley on a fly to the warning track in center and got Hunter Pence on a grounder.

Howard was next, and Carpenter got the big slugger to end a most improbable series win.

Catcher Yadier Molina threw his mask toward the mound, Carpenter turned to the left of first looking for someone to celebrate with before his teammates finally got there, led by Albert Pujols. The congregation settled at second base, as just off to the right, while Howard was carried off the field and into his dugout.

Earlier, Milwaukee's Nyjer Morgan drove in the winning run in the 10th inning to give the Brewers a 3-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks in Friday's deciding Game 5 of their playoff series, and a place in the National League Championship Series.

Morgan grounded a ball straight past Diamondbacks closer J.J. Putz and Carlos Gomez sprinted home from second base to comfortably beat a wild throw to home plate.

Milwaukee had lost its lead in the ninth inning but came back to record just the second playoff series victory in franchise history and first since 1982.

"We've heard all about 1982, so it's nice to start our own legacy," slugger Ryan Braun said.

Arizona did all it could to extend its surprising season and looked capable of it when tying the game in the top of the ninth, but ultimately fell short.

"This was a great baseball game today. I'm not happy to be on this end of it. Yet I'm proud of my team and they played true to the way they played all year," Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said.

"And the Brewers, they cashed in on their opportunities, what can we say? We had tons of opportunities."

With a 2-1 lead and their tough bullpen combination of Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford lined up for the eighth and ninth, the Brewers appeared to have their ticket punched to the NLCS.

But the Diamondbacks had the most comeback victories in the majors this season (48) and weren't about to go away easily.

They nearly got the best of Rodriguez in the eighth. He loaded the bases with two outs, bringing up Ryan Roberts, one of two Diamondbacks players to hit a grand slam in the series. But Rodriguez got Roberts to ground into a forceout at second base, ending the threat.

Axford pitched the ninth, allowing a leadoff double to Gerardo Parra. Then pinch-hitter Sean Burroughs blooped a single to put runners on first and third.

Willie Bloomquist followed with a bunt. Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder nearly collided with Axford while fielding the ball. Fielder stumbled and was unable to get off a throw to the plate as the tying run scored.

Arizona's Justin Upton then grounded into a forceout at second and Henry Blanco followed with a grounder to shortstop. Yuniesky Betancourt fielded the ball and barely beat the speedy Upton to second base to end the inning — although Betancourt paid for it, getting spiked in the left leg.