Morris mows Reds in salvage project

Monday, September 8, 2003

ST. LOUIS -- Matt Morris was on his game again, keeping the Cardinals close in the NL Central.

Morris pitched no-hit ball into the seventh inning and finished with a three-hitter in a 9-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds Sunday.

After winning 39 games in 2001 and 2002, he's struggling much of the year and this victory got him to double digits.

"As far as the stats and numbers, it's a disappointing year for me because I set high goals," Morris said. "But to keep this snowball rolling and to end hopefully in a playoff spot and do some damage in the playoffs, that's the way I can save my season."

Fernando Vina had a season-high four hits and Orlando Palmeiro and Mike Matheny homered for St. Louis, which began the day two games out of the NL Central lead.

"I love this time of year," Vina said. "I love the challenge, I love the pressure. I think that makes me play a little better."

The Cardinals took two of three from the decimated Reds, who have lost 11 of 14 with a roster filled with young players.

The Reds' 14 rookies dressed in women's clothing, as a team initiation, for the trip back to Cincinnati.

"The Cardinals are a good team, they've got a lot of good hitters, and they jumped on us early today," Juan Castro said.

The Reds had only one baserunner in the first six innings, that coming on Tim Hummel's second-inning walk. That was the only three-ball count for Morris before Castro broke up the no-hit bid when he singled up the middle on a 3-1 pitch leading off the seventh.

Morris (10-6) struck out eight, fanning No. 3 hitter D'Angelo Jimenez three times, and walked one in his third shutout and fifth complete game this season. He got all the supported he needed in a three-run first.

Tino Martinez drew a bases-loaded walk off Seth Etherton (2-3) and Edgar Renteria followed with a two-run double.

J.D. Drew had an RBI double in the fourth, Palmeiro hit his second homer in the fifth and Matheny hit his sixth off Matt Belisle in the seventh.

Morris is 2-0 with an 0.93 ERA in four starts since returning from the 15-day disabled list from a broken hand and sprained ankle that sidelined him from July 21 to Aug. 23. He has thrown 20 consecutive scoreless innings the last three games.

"That's Matt at his best," manager Tony La Russa said. "That's as good as he's pitched all year."

Etherton, a No. 1 draft pick of the Angels in 1998, lasted 4 2-3 innings. He gave up five runs and 10 hits in the shortest of his five starts with the Reds.

"I let the team down early on, and that set the tone for the rest of the game," Etherton said.

Martinez and Palmeiro had RBI doubles and Renteria had a run-scoring single in the eighth off Brian Reith.

Notes: Albert Pujols reached base in eight consecutive plate appearances with a home run, two singles, four walks and a hit by pitch, before lining out in the sixth. ... The last no-hit game at Busch Stadium was by the Expos' David Palmer on April 21, 1984, in a game shortened to five innings by rain. The last full-length no-hitter in St. Louis was by Bob Forsch on Sept. 26, 1983, against the Expos. ... Morris is the first Cardinals pitcher to win at least 10 games in three straight seasons since Bob Tewksbury did it five years in a row from 1990-94. ... Cardinals second basemen have eight hits the last two games. Bo Hart had four hits on Saturday. ... Morris has 13 career complete games, six of them shutouts. He also shut out the Pirates on May 24 and the Cubs on May 19. He's the first Cardinals pitcher to have three shutouts since Jose DeLeon and Joe Magrane each had three in 1989.

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