Morris hurls Cards closer to playoffs

Sunday, September 30, 2001

ST. LOUIS -- Matt Morris is more concerned about the St. Louis Cardinals' place in the standings than his spot on the leaderboard.

Morris tied Curt Schilling for the major league lead with his 21st win and the St. Louis Cardinals moved within two games of first place with a 2-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday.

"The games that count right now are the ones we have to win to finish first in the division or get the wild card spot," Morris said.

The Cardinals won for the 13th time in 16 games against Pittsburgh this season to gain a game on first-place Houston in the NL Central. The Astros lost 6-2 to the Chicago Cubs on Saturday.

The Cardinals, who remained three games ahead of San Francisco in the wild card race, have won nine of 12 overall.

Morris (21-8) allowed five hits and struck out eight in eight scoreless innings. He improved his record to 15-2 at Busch Stadium this year, breaking the team record for home wins set by John Tudor in 1985.

"It seems to me it just works out that way," Morris said of his success at home. "I'm comfortable at home, I like going out there first, and I like wearing the whites."

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he doesn't see any difference between Morris pitching at home or on the road.

"This guy can pitch anywhere, I don't think it matters if he's at home," he said.

Gene Stechschulte got three outs for his sixth save.

The Cardinals scored their first run in the second inning against Dave Williams (3-7). Albert Puljos doubled and later scored on a sacrifice fly to short center field by Mark McGwire. Puljos was safe when center fielder Gary Mathews Jr.'s throw was wide of the plate.

Fernando Vina hit a solo homer in the fifth to make it 2-0. It was Vina's first homer of the year in 125 at-bats against a left-hander. Vina has seven homers overall.

Williams, who beat the Cardinals last Sunday, gave up two runs and three hits in seven innings.

"I was just trying to focus on keeping us in the game, that's all you can do against a pitcher like that," Williams said.

The Pirates put two runners on base in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, but Morris got out of the jams.

The Pirates have lost 10 of 13.

NOTES: The game was played in 2 hours, 4 minutes -- the shortest game of the season for St. Louis. ... The Pirates had homered in eight straight games. ... Pujols broke an 0-for-16 streak with a double. ... Vina, who missed three games this week after being hit by a pitch, was struck in the third. ... Pittsburgh's Jason Kendall is in a 4-for-28 slump.

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