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Carpenter garnering more important innings

ATLANTA -- After spending the first few months of the season working the late innings of games whose outcomes were already all but decided, reliever David Carpenter earned the Braves' trust that he could perform in tighter spots.

Of late, he has been the busiest member of the Atlanta bullpen, appearing in eight of the team's last 11 games going into Thursday night's series opener against the Reds. In 11 1/3 innings since June 29, Carpenter has posted a 1.59 ERA with 16 strikeouts against two walks and eight hits allowed.

On Monday night, he took the ball in the bottom of the 12th inning and put up two scoreless frames, earning his second win of the year after the Atlanta offense exploded for six runs in the top of the 14th.

"I'm just glad I'm getting an opportunity to go in and try to help us win, whether it's being behind a few runs, trying to hold the team where they're at and giving us a chance offensively to bust open, which you saw in the 14-inning game," Carpenter said. "This offense, it's definitely got that potential to have the huge inning, and you never know when it's going to come, but I'll tell you what, they go up there and they grind out at-bats."

Carpenter credited Tim Hudson with helping him hone his slider and splitter to complement his mid-90s fastball ever since he made his first appearance for the team on May 10 in San Francisco. After giving up two runs in that outing and struggling with his command over the rest of the month, Carpenter has walked just six batters and allowed four earned runs since the beginning of June.

"He throws that splitter, he throws a cutter-slider type thing, so getting the chance to go talk with somebody like that, it's always a blessing," Carpenter said. "It's great having a leader like that to go up to and ask him any type of question, because he's been through it. Whether it be a tough time trying to get a pitch to work, he can offer something that maybe somebody's not seeing."

Playing catch and talking shop with All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel every day doesn't hurt either. Between his teammates and his coaching staff, Carpenter believes he has gotten as much out of his increased role as he has contributed in recent weeks.

"It's fun getting to pitch for a group of guys like this," Carpenter said. "You have a great defense behind you, you got two great catchers and [Evan] Gattis coming back. It's a lot of fun being with a group of guys like this."

Eric Single is an associate reporter for
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