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Morris helps Cards close gap on Cubs
Cardinal hurler holds first-place Chicago to four hits in 2-0 victory.
By R.B. Fallstrom ~ The Associated Press
ST. LOUIS -- Matt Morris made really quick work of the Chicago Cubs on Monday.
Morris threw a four-hitter as the St. Louis Cardinals retained a dominating home field advantage over the Cubs with a 2-0 victory. The game lasted just 2 hours, 5 minutes, the shortest of the season at Busch Stadium. It was one minute shorter than Morris' previous start, a 4-0 loss to the Reds on Wednesday.
"I was just trying to make pitches and get out there and get it over with, almost," Morris said. "It's fun to go out there when you're in sync and able to make pitches and execute and start playing with the mental part."
Of Morris' 122 pitches, 83 were strikes. He threw first-pitch strikes to 23 of 30 batters.
"They had to swing," pitching coach Dave Duncan said. "He had everything going."
The Cardinals took three of four in the series, outscoring the Cubs 16-9, and pulled two games behind the NL Central leaders. The Cubs are 2-11 at Busch Stadium the last two years and 4-23 there over the last four years.
"We could have won at least two of these games," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "One hit or one play here or there would have made the difference.
"We're coming back in August and we'll see what happens then."
Albert Pujols hit his 11th homer on a 1-2 pitch from Kyle Farnsworth in the eighth for the Cardinals' second run, and was 5-for-14 in the series with a pair of homers and four RBIs. The other run scored on a double play ball in the third inning.
"I think he only needed that one run," Pujols said. "But I got a big hit right there and gave us a little insurance."
Morris (5-3) outdueled 21-year-old Carlos Zambrano, striking out eight and walking none for his fourth career shutout and first since blanking the Cubs 3-0 on May 13, 2002 in St. Louis. It was his third complete game of the year and 11th of his career.
The Cubs got three runners into scoring position, on doubles by Corey Patterson in the first, Lenny Harris in the fifth and Mark Grudzielanek in the sixth.
Morris has worked six or more innings in all of his 10 starts and eight or more in three of his last four outings. He has won four of his last five starts and improved his career record against the Cubs to 9-2 with a 3.53 ERA.
Zambrano (4-4) allowed one run, unearned, on five hits in seven innings. He struck out four and walked three.
"I like games like that," Zambrano said. "It makes you work harder, and I think it makes you better."
But Zambrano's error, the 12th by Cubs pitchers this season, led to the game's first run. After Mike Matheny singled to start the third, Zambrano threw wildly to second on Morris' bunt in an attempt to get the force, putting runners on first and third. Matheny scored when Fernando Vina bounced into a double play.
"It's something that's been haunting us," Baker said. "We know it, everyone knows it.
"We want to make the guys aware of it, but not make them so conscious of it that they throw the ball away."
Morris retired the last 11 batters and benefited from some strong defense. Third baseman Scott Rolen made a diving stab of Harris' drive to start the eighth and J.D. Drew tracked down Patterson's warning track drive in the sixth.
In Morris' last nine starts, he has allowed only 16 earned runs in 67 2-3 innings for a 2.13 ERA.
Notes: Patterson stretched his hitting streak to a career-best 11 games with a double in the first and is 17-for-45 (.378) during that stretch with three homers and 12 RBIs. The entire Cardinals team has made only three more errors than the total for the Cubs pitchers. St. Louis' league-leading defense, which features four Gold Glove winners from last season, hasn't committed an error in 83 1-3 innings since May 8 at Cincinnati. ... Rolen singled in the fourth and is 18-for-45 (.400) during a 13-game hitting streak with four homers and 11 RBIs.