LOS ANGELES -- This was not the Matt Morris who pitched against the Dodgers on Sept. 3 at Busch Stadium. Then again, no one expected him to be.
Not Shawn Green, who had gone 0-for-3 when Morris threw that two-hit shutout for the Cardinals back then.
"When we faced him in St. Louis last month, he shut us out on two hits and he was ahead of every count," Green said Saturday night. "This time he still pitched well, but he let us get offensive by getting us a chance to work a count and see some pitches to hit."
Green hit two of Morris' pitches for home runs this time at Dodger Stadium, accounting for the final two runs as Los Angeles won, 4-0, to extend the best-of-five National League Division Series for at least another day.
Morris hasn't won a game since that Sept. 3 outing, which manager Tony La Russa described at the time as the best start of the right-hander's big league career. In this Game 3, Morris might not have been in the same form as that other meeting with Los Angeles, but he wasn't bad, either. He threw 106 pitches, 73 of them for strikes, and this was simply a case where Jose Lima was much better on the other side.
"I tip my hat to their side," Morris said. "I'd take this same outing again. Nine times out of 10 you'd be on top. ... I felt great and I was looking forward to pitching. It's playoff time, and that's what it's all about. We're not down. I'm sure they can't do this two times in a row."
You know it's not your day when you shatter a guy's bat into several pieces and the ball goes into left field for a two-run, two-out double. That's how the first two runs were scored in that freaky third inning. What did Morris think about seeing so many pieces of Steve Finley's bat scattered around the field?
"It's one of those things that's frustrating, of course," Morris said. "I had to focus right again. I didn't think two runs were going to hold us down."
Los Angeles didn't need any more than that, but Green provided it with those solo jacks in the fourth and sixth innings.
"On Green's first home run, I fell behind two changeups -- a bad sequence and I got into a hitter's count," Morris explained. "Then I threw him a fastball, and he did what he's supposed to do."
Matt Morris / P
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
Morris spent most of his postgame interview talking about the controversial Lima bunt play in the third to load the bases. Cardinals fans probably will be doing the same thing while waiting for Game 4 to start. But all in all, there was a silver lining in this loss for those who wondered if Morris still has strength for this October.
"I thought he pitched a strong game," La Russa said. "Two runs, it's tough to give up. That's baseball."
As Morris discussed his outing, the man standing in front of the locker immediately to the left was tying his tie and getting his game face on for Sunday. Now it was certain that Jeff Suppan will be starting Game 4, 11 days after his last outing.
"I'm looking forward to it," Suppan said. "Now it's a new game. I'll get back to my own game plan as usual, because they've got good bats."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.