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Morris continues to struggle since DL stint

9/21/2002

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Now that the St. Louis Cardinals have clinched
the NL Central, they've got to figure out how to get Matt Morris
ready for the playoffs.

Morris, struggling since he came off the disabled list, allowed
all six runs and nine hits Saturday in a 6-3 loss to the Houston
Astros.

"I'm just not concentrating. I'm not real sharp right now,''
Morris said. "It's all in there, but I'm just not making
pitches.''

He's 1-2 with a 6.14 ERA since he was activated on Sept. 10,
allowing 10 earned runs in 14 2/3 innings. In his previous start,
Houston chased him after 3 2/3 innings last weekend. Morris (16-9)
allowed five runs and nine hits in that one.

Morris likely will start the first and, if needed, fourth game
of the playoffs, most likely against Arizona. His last tuneup is
scheduled for Thursday against Milwaukee.

"He'll be all right,'' Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.
"I think Matt pitched better than those numbers.''

Wade Miller (15-3) tied a team record by winning his 12th
straight decision and Lance Berkman hit a two-run homer and drove in three runs for the Astros.

Houston (82-73) remains alive in the wild-card race with seven
games left but has only a slight hope to catch San Francisco, 88-66
going into Saturday.

"To see them celebrate like that makes you want to get back
there,'' Miller said. "I'm just trying to work on my game right
now and try to come back next year strong so we can get back
there.''

St. Louis, which clinched the division title Friday night,
rested Jim Edmonds, Fernando Vina, Edgar Renteria and Tino
Martinez. The Cardinals, who finished second last year but won the
wild card, have lost only three times in their last 17 games.

La Russa rejected the notion that the Cardinals were flat after
celebrating well into the night on Friday.

"We were fired up last Sunday and he shut us out,'' La Russa
said of Miller. "He's got a winning streak going for a good
reason.''

Miller, unbeaten in 15 starts since a June 26 loss to Arizona,
tied the team record set by Mark Portugal in 1993. He also matched
Anaheim's Jarrod Washburn (April 19 to July 21) for the longest winning streak by a major league pitcher this year.

"I think it's neat,'' Miller said. "I think it's great to go
out there and get that. Hopefully I can finish the season with
that.''

Miller pitched a three-hit shutout in his previous outing, last
Sunday at Houston against the Cardinals, and is 3-0 with an 1.16
ERA in September. During his winning streak, he has a 1.93 ERA.

"Wade has been great since he's coming off the DL,'' catcher
Brad Ausmus said. "It kind of makes you wonder what our record
would be if Wade hadn't missed six weeks of the season because he's
pitched so well.''

Miller struck out five and walked one in eight innings, and also
hit a two-run double that made it 6-2 in the sixth -- doubling his
RBI total for the season.

Berkman, who leads the NL with 128 RBI, had a run-scoring
double in the first and a two-run homer in the fifth, his 42nd
homer this season. He left in the bottom of the sixth with a tight
right hamstring and is day to day.

Scott Rolen, who had homered in four consecutive games for the
Cardinals, was 0-2 before leaving for a pinch hitter in the
seventh. Rolen has hit .283 with 12 homers and 39 RBI in 50 games
with St. Louis.

Ausmus tied an NL record when he grounded into his 30th double
play of the season. Ausmus matched the mark set by Ernie Lombardi,
also a catcher, in for the 1938 Cincinnati Reds.

"I've been the butt of a few jokes,'' Ausmus said. "If you go
out there and win and I hit into a double play, at the very least
it will entertain my teammates.''

Miguel Cairo had a two-run single in the third for the
Cardinals. Kerry Robinson scored from first after an ill-advised
throw to second by left fielder Daryle Ward.

"I just kept running and you run until they stop you,''
Robinson said. "It won't be on the news.''

Eli Marrero homered for the third straight game in the ninth off
Tom Gordon.

Game notes
Ausmus got his 1,000th career hit when he singled in the
second, and he singled and scored in the sixth. ... The Cardinals
went without a home run after hitting consecutive homers in three
straight games. ... St. Louis has scored 18 runs in Morris' nine
losses. ... The Astros are 6-12 against the Cardinals.