NEW YORK (AP) – Chris Carpenter left rainy Shea Stadium on Wednesday night figuring there was a good chance St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa would bump him up to Game 2 of the National League Championship Series.

It was no surprise to the team’s ace, then, when he arrived at the park Thursday and got the news.

“Especially at this time of the year you’ve got to be ready for change, you’ve got to be ready for anything,” Carpenter said. “I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be a great time.”

La Russa took advantage of Wednesday’s rainout of the NLCS opener to alter the rotation. He said a 15-minute meeting with the coaching staff before leaving the stadium produced a consensus that it was the right move, and he told Carpenter before leaving not to be surprised.

“The biggest factor was you catch what could be a break with a rare rainout, and it’s his day,” La Russa said. “It’s his fifth day and so it made sense to play that edge.”

Carpenter, the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, was 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA in the Cardinals’ first-round win over San Diego and is 4-0 with a 2.10 ERA in five postseason starts. He started Sunday night when St. Louis finished off the Padres in four games.

Before Wednesday night’s game was postponed, La Russa said a rainout probably wouldn’t alter his rotation and he would likely stick with Carpenter in Game 3. But the manager began to waffle not long after the game was called.

Jeff Suppan was pushed back to Game 3, which is scheduled for Saturday in St. Louis. Rookie right-hander Anthony Reyes will start Game 4.

Rookie John Maine is scheduled to start Game 2 for the Mets in New York, followed by Steve Trachsel and Oliver Perez in the following two games.

With the change, Carpenter is in line to pitch a possible Game 6 instead of Game 7. And both his potential starts would be on the road.

Carpenter was 7-4 with a 4.70 ERA on the road this season, and 8-4 with a major league-leading 1.81 ERA at home. He minimized the disparity, pointing to a few poor road outings in interleague play that “skewed” the numbers.

He allowed six runs in six innings at Kansas City on May 19 and seven runs in seven innings at Detroit on June 23.

“There isn’t a difference in the way I feel,” Carpenter said. “No matter where I’m pitching, I prepare the same way.”

Pitching a Game 6 would allow Carpenter to pitch earlier if the Cardinals make it to the World Series. La Russa can’t get him on the mound often enough.

“In the end it’s his fifth day and he’s our best guy,” La Russa said. “He should pitch as soon as he’s ready to pitch.”

Carpenter has not been throwing between starts, removing that as a possible issue. He threw 221 2-3 innings during the regular season and stopped throwing bullpen sessions a few weeks ago to conserve his strength for the games.

“It’s getting to that time of the year where I’m really not working on anything,” Carpenter said. “My stuff’s there, I feel strong and I feel good, so I’m saving my bullets.”

AP-ES-10-12-06 1839EDT

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