05/18/2002 6:55 pm ET
Morris' home streak comes to an end
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- A pair of streaks came to an end in the Cardinals' 7-3 loss to the Reds on Saturday.
First was the Redbirds' run of five straight wins, which had vaulted them above .500 for one enjoyable day. The more impressive string was Matt Morris' Busch Stadium win streak. Morris was 9-0 in his last 11 starts at Busch with a 1.56 ERA. He had gone 10 straight home starts without allowing more than two runs.
On Sunday, he got knocked around at home for the first time in a long time.
The Cardinals ace lasted just 5 2/3 innings, giving up seven runs on nine hits. He struck out six and walked just two, and at times showed his usual dominant form. But overall it was a bad day for Morris.
"You know he wasn't sharp as usual," said manager Tony La Russa, "because he gave up a lot of hits when he was ahead in the count. He's usually really good at putting guys away."
La Russa will join a slew of other baseball folks in arguing that momentum is no more or less than tomorrow's starting pitcher, but it still seemed like the Cards had some "Mo" going in addition to "Matty Mo." They had won eight of their last nine games, improving to 21-20 and pulling within four games of the first-place Reds. They had their No. 1 starter and Cy Young candidate on the hill.
But Morris was just a little off, allowing a steady stream of singles and doubles. And the Cards were reminded - as if they didn't already know - that nothing is guaranteed.
"Sometimes your emotions just run and you can't control them," said catcher Mike DiFelice, who has been behind the plate for nine of Morris' 10 starts this year. "I think that was a little bit today. I know on my side as well as Matt's, and everybody today. For some reason, it felt like we might have pressed a little bit today. You get .500 and you feel, you see some light, the door's open, and you put a little pressure on yourself."
Morris breezed through the first, but ran into trouble in the second. After walking Adam Dunn with one out, he hung a curveball to Juan Encarnacion, who shot it into the left-field seats. Morris bounced back nicely, however, which isn't a trait he always displays. He retired the next five batters in order, including a pair of strikeouts.
"I went to my curveball real soon in the game, didn't establish my sinker," Morris said. "Gave up a bunch of hits on my curveball. Encarnacion, I just hung it right there and they were up 2-0, kind of got out of my game plan after that."
He endured another small rally in the fourth, with a single by Sean Casey, a walk to Encarnacion and an RBI single from Todd Walker. But once again he minimized the damage, and once again he collected himself nicely, setting down four in a row after the run scored.
But in the sixth, the wheels came off for Morris. Casey singled, and Morris struck out Kearns again. Then the hit parade began. Dunn, Encarnacion, Walker and Corky Miller all singled, and even with Dunn being caught stealing, it was already a 5-2 Reds lead. Morris just couldn't make the one pitch he needed to stop the bleeding.
"In the fifth inning we scored a couple runs there and it was a good opportunity for us to get back in the game," Morris said. "I went out there to get a shutdown and ended up giving up four runs. I think that was a crucial point in the game where if I do get three outs there -- DiFelice made a good throw on Dunn -- and if I can get the next out there, it's 3-2, we're coming back. It seems like the ball's in our court there. But giving up four is not gonna help."
When Brady Clark doubled in two more runs, Morris' afternoon was over and so were the streaks. That doesn't mean Morris, or the Cards, won't start a new one soon, though.
"Hopefully it's not over," Morris said of his Busch Stadium success. "I hope this didn't screw everything up that you guys were talking about. It was a bad game and I made bad pitches. Hopefully I can get in next Thursday (at home against Houston), make some better pitches and get a win."
Matthew Leach covers the Cardinals for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.