Plenty of moments challenged Chris Carpenter this year — from the March day he lost sensation in his right shoulder to the July day he submitted to high-risk surgery to the day he disobeyed protocol and began to push himself before doctors recommended.

They all led to today's moment at Nationals Park in a game Carpenter willed himself to pitch.

"Well, obviously, everybody knows that it wasn't supposed to happen," Carpenter said shortly before the team's Tuesday workout in preparation for Game 3 of the Cardinals' NL division series pairing against the Washington Nationals. "But I'm excited for it. 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."

Carpenter made only three regular-season starts covering 17 innings. He admittedly had "nothing" in his first appearance but has constructed two quality starts. He's still chasing his first win. Today represents the 16th postseason start of his career. All have come for the Cardinals.

Carpenter enters today's start opposite ex-teammate Edwin Jackson 9-2 in postseason, including 4-1 in this round. Convention doesn't apply to what Carpenter can or can't be expected to provide.

"If you're not excited about pitching in a game like this there's no need to play the game," Carpenter said. "That's what it's all about: coming out and having the opportunity to pitch in the postseason when everything matters, and hopefully do the best you can to give your team a chance to win."