ARLINGTON -- In the aftermath of their World Series Game 5 defeat to the Rangers, the Cardinals understood that they had lost more than a game. They had lost a game with their best starting pitcher -- perhaps the best pitcher in this entire Series, period -- on the mound.

"You expect to win when you have your ace," reliever Octavio Dotel said afterward.

And yet they did not. The Cardinals lost despite Carpenter's seven strong innings, despite the fact that he escaped multiple jams, despite the fact that he allowed his only runs on a pair of solo homers.

Each of those hits vexed Carpenter in different ways. The first of his missteps came in the third inning, with the Cardinals nursing a two-run lead. Falling behind Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland with two consecutive balls to open the at-bat, Carpenter caught too much of the strike zone's inner half with a 2-0 fastball. Bashing it for a homer, Moreland drew Texas back within one.

A calm then settled over the game until there were two outs in the bottom of the sixth. Taking a called strike to open his at-bat, Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre stood in wait of Carpenter's 0-1 curveball, which he rocked into the left-field seats for another home run.

"I don't think the Beltre ball was a mistake," catcher Yadier Molina said. "He's a good hitter."

"Good hitters are good hitters for a reason," Carpenter said. "I threw a few of those curveballs to him the at-bat before, and he didn't get to them. He got to this one."

And just like that, the slimmest of margins disappeared. Carpenter, who won Game 1 last week despite pitching worse than he did on Monday, lost Game 5 to a Rangers club featuring an effectively wild C.J. Wilson. In doing so, Carpenter snapped a World Series streak weighted heavily in his favor -- according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last nine times the same starting pitchers opposed each other twice in the same World Series, the team that won the first meeting also won the second.

Carpenter won his first meeting with Wilson last week in St. Louis. He did not win the second.

"He's a battler, he's a fighter, he's a warrior, but that's what my team is," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Wilson. "So we fight, we battle, we go to war."

"I did the best I could," Carpenter said.

The previous night, Carpenter's teammates had spent their postgame hours lauding the physical and spiritual leader of their pitching staff. No one was a better option to start a critical World Series Game 5, they said. No one commanded more of their trust.

Carpenter spent most of Monday evening proving why. Featuring a low-90s fastball and his trademark hammer curve, Carpenter allowed just four singles and two walks in addition to his homers. Then he lamented defeat on a night when he felt his "stuff" was good."

"Everything was good," he said. "My fastball command was better than it's been for a while. My curveball was what I needed. And when I have that, you can keep them off-balance."

Instead, the Rangers proved just balanced enough to win -- even if they did not find facing Carpenter particularly fun.

It may not be the last they see of him, either. If the Cardinals win Wednesday to force a Game 7 on Thursday, Carpenter -- most likely along with everyone else on the St. Louis pitching staff -- will be available. For a third time, even if only briefly, the Cards would be able to rely on their ace.

Already considering that scenario, Carpenter smirked late Monday night when told of the rainy weather forecast back home in St. Louis. A postponement of Game 6, he knows, will allow him to be only stronger for a potential Game 7. For a potential chance at redemption.

"I'm good," he said. "Whatever they need, I'm good to go."