Here's a simple, declarative statement: Chris Carpenter will start Game 3 of the National League Division Series for the Cardinals against the Nationals on Wednesday afternoon (Noon CT, MLB Network).

Really, though, there was nothing simple about getting to that point. Not earlier in the season, when nobody could quite figure out what was bothering the ace right-hander -- or what to do about it. Not in July, when he finally underwent surgery to correct a nerve issue that was affecting his neck and shoulder, a procedure that required removing a rib.

"Everybody knows it wasn't supposed to happen," Carpenter noted dryly after the Cards conducted a light workout at Nationals Park.

The 37-year-old insists that he never stopped believing, that as he went through his rehab he always thought he'd be back this year. And he was right. He pitched three games at the end of the regular season, improving each time out, and now will get the ball in the NLDS. "I'm excited for it," he said. "The medical staff put a lot of work into it. The trainers did a great job. And I put a lot of work into it to hopefully have this opportunity. I didn't know if I was going to have this opportunity or not, and fortunately, I do."