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Morris blames self for being passed over

ST. LOUIS -- Woody Williams has the fewest victories of any
Cardinals starter. But he, and not Matt Morris, will get the honor
of starting their playoff opener.

"More than anything else, he's feeling physically the best he's
felt all year," manager Tony La Russa said Saturday. "We think it
gives us the best shot in case there's a Game 5."

The rotation had been aligned to give Morris (15-10, 4.72) the
nod in Game 1, and Williams (11-8, 4.18) had been scheduled to
pitch in the regular-season finale on Sunday and then go in Game 3
on the road. Instead, Dan Haren will fill in on Sunday and Morris
moves to what had been Williams' playoff slot.

Jason Marquis (15-6, 3.66) will pitch in Game 2 and Jeff Suppan
(16-9, 4.16) will work in Game 4. The Cardinals are without Chris
Carpenter (15-5, 3.46), who's been sidelined with nerve damage in
his right biceps since Sept. 18 -- the day they clinched the NL
Central.

Carpenter likely would have pitched Game 1 if he was healthy.

"I feel like it was a byproduct of elimination pretty much,"
Williams said. "I wish in all regards that I was in the spot they
originally put me in, which means everyone is healthy and ready to
go.

"Hopefully I'll go out there and do my thing and keep my team
in the game."

Morris was the opening-day starter and was the Game 1 starter in
the playoffs in 2001 and 2002. But he's been inconsistent this
year, and skipping a start to deal with fatigue and general
soreness didn't help against the Brewers on Thursday.

Morris was yanked after giving up six runs in four innings. He
has surrendered 35 home runs, among the league leaders.

"He's had some starts where he's been cranky and I think most
starters are if they throw 200 innings," La Russa said. "This
protects us in case he has one of those cranky ones.

"He just has to get ready for Game 3."

After his last start, Morris said it didn't really matter where
he fit in the postseason rotation. On Saturday, he said it was his
fault he wasn't opening the playoffs.

"I put myself in this position," Morris said. "I could have
started if I performed better."

Morris said he couldn't blame the Cardinals for questioning his
conditioning, either.

"They were unsure how I'd been recovering," Morris said.
"It's no secret I've been a little beat up here and there.

"It's a clean slate, though, in the playoffs."

The Cardinals will open the playoffs at home on Tuesday if
they're facing a division champion or Wednesday if they're facing a
wild-card team. They'll play either the Dodgers or the Giants.

That means Morris' start in Game 3 will be on the road, where
he's 6-6 with a 6.02 ERA. He's 9-4 with a 3.69 ERA at home.

La Russa minimized Morris' problems away from Busch Stadium,
pointing out that Morris' last four postseason starts have come on
the road, and he's pitched well in all of them. He also took note
that Morris hasn't been a poor road performer before this year.

"That's why with those stats, you can look at them over and
over again and go crazy with them," La Russa said. "That's what
you do, you go crazy."