San Diego played as poorly as its record suggests for most of the day. And now, with the team's best pitcher hurting, the Padres might be overmatched.
Sanders hit a grand slam and set an NL Division Series record with six RBI, Carpenter pitched six scoreless innings before being pulled as a precaution and the Cardinals built a big lead and held off the Padres 8-5 Tuesday in Game 1.
"It's huge," Sanders said. "Let alone getting one RBI in a week, you get six in one day and especially under postseason pressure. It's a great day.
"But it's not over. We've got a long way to go."
Facing a team that won the West despite an 82-80 record, the Cardinals -- who led the majors with 100 wins -- opened an 8-0 cushion in the fifth inning against San Diego ace Jake Peavy. He pitched with an injury that worsened in the third and was taken to a hospital after lasting only 4 1/3 innings.
An MRI showed one broken rib on his right side and the possibility of a second break. A Padres spokesman said the injury would take four to six weeks to heal.
"He felt something on his right side," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He said he felt it during the course of the game."
Peavy thinks he might have bruised his ribs during a celebratory scrum on the field after the Padres clinched the NL West on Wednesday. He said the injury was probably worsened in the third inning, when he caught a spike on the rubber on a wild pitch that didn't even make it to the dirt.
"I thought I had bruised ribs; I never imagined it would be this," Peavy said. "It's weird. It's been a little bothersome but it was nothing we thought would get in my way.
"I knew it was pretty bad when I came out of the game."
Even without Peavy, the pesky Padres weren't done. They scored once in the seventh, added another run in the eighth and then got right back into it in the ninth. San Diego scored three times and loaded the bases with two outs before closer Jason Isringhausen struck out Ramon Hernandez.
"We're playing a tough team," Sanders said. "As you can see, they fought to the last out."
Manager Tony La Russa's team won for the fifth time in six NLDS openers. That includes a victory in 1996 when the Cardinals swept the Padres.
The 37-year-old Sanders was on pace for the first 30-homer, 30-steal season of his career before missing 54 games after breaking his right leg in an outfield collision with Edmonds in mid-July. Sanders rediscovered his stroke in the final week of the regular season, driving in 10 runs in the last six games and homering three times in the final four.
Against Peavy, Sanders had both of the key hits. His two-run single off the glove of diving first baseman Mark Sweeney put the Cardinals ahead 4-0 in the third, and his grand slam into the left-field seats on a 3-0 fastball chased Peavy in the fifth.
Carpenter was 21-5 with a 2.83 ERA, the ace the Cardinals lacked in the playoffs last fall when they were swept in the World Series by the Red Sox. But he struggled in the final month, with a 9.14 ERA in his final four outings, and said he lost motivation after the Cardinals clinched the Central with two weeks to spare.
"It feels nice to get zeros and get a win," Carpenter said. "You go out there to execute pitches and give your team a chance to win and I was able to do it all day."
The Padres saw the dominant Carpenter again. He allowed only three singles while benefiting from three double plays from the team that led the majors.
"Our key is to make him throw pitches and get him out of there," San Diego's Ryan Klesko said. "He pitched himself out of a couple of jams."
Carpenter's biggest battle was with the weather. It was an unseasonably warm 84 degrees at game time and 86 when he experienced cramping in his right hand while warming up before the seventh. The Cardinals said dehydration caused the problem and took him out as a precaution.
Carpenter said his fingers started cramping when he put on his batting glove before striking out in the sixth. He also said his hamstrings and calves were cramping.
"It only happened twice," Carpenter said. "But they weren't going to take a chance."
Peavy appeared to be the Padres' best shot at postseason success after going 13-7 with a 2.88 ERA -- only five points behind Carpenter -- and leading the NL with 216 strikeouts. But he couldn't make it through the fifth, his second-shortest outing of the season, and gave up eight runs on eight hits.
The Padres had been planning to pitch Peavy in Game 4 on Sunday in San Diego on regular rest if the series goes that far. Now, the likely starter is Adam Eaton, who had been slotted for Game 5.
The Cardinals got to Peavy immediately. With one out in the first, Edmonds hit his 11th career postseason homer to the opposite field to give St. Louis the lead.
Five straight batters reached safely with one out in the third as the Cardinals scored three more times. A bases-loaded wild pitch by Peavy that didn't even reach the dirt allowed one run to score and Sanders' infield hit drove in two more.
In the fifth, four straight Cardinals reached with one out. Edmonds began the rally with a sharp grounder off Peavy's glove, Albert Pujols singled and Larry Walker walked to set up Sanders' grand slam.
The Padres had 13 hits, but eight came in the last two innings.
"I think anytime you're down eight runs and you end up getting the winning run at the plate, I think that shows a lot of character and heart of the club," Bochy said. "They were battling to the end."
Khalil Greene had a sacrifice fly off Cardinals reliever Brad Thompson in the seventh and Young homered off Randy Flores to start the eighth. Mark Loretta and Brian Giles had RBI singles in the ninth.
- Sanders, a career .188 hitter in the postseason coming in, is the third Cardinals player to hit a grand slam in the postseason. Gary Gaetti did it in the 1996 NLCS against the Braves' Greg Maddux and Ken Boyer did it in the 1964 World Series.
- Four players have had seven RBI in division series play.
- The Padres were 4-3 against St. Louis this season, one of only four teams with a winning record against the Cardinals.
- Edmonds has hit seven homers in division series play, second among NL players to Chipper Jones of the Braves, who has eight.