Morris in top form for final playoffs tuneup


ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Matt Morris is back in top form -- just in time for the playoffs.

Morris (17-9) rebounded from two shaky starts to pitch seven strong innings and lead the St. Louis Cardinals over the Milwaukee Brewers 9-1 Thursday night.

"I was just concentrating, not trying so hard,'' said Morris, who thinks he was pressing in his previous two outings. In those losses, he allowed 11 runs -- nine earned -- and 18 hits over 9 2/3 innings.

J.D. Drew homered for the third consecutive game as the NL
Central champions won their fifth in a row to stay ahead of Arizona
in the race for home-field advantage in the first round of the

St. Louis has won nine of 10 and 19 of 22. The Cardinals are an
NL-best 19-5 in September.

Eli Marrero hit a two-run homer for St. Louis, which opened a
five-run lead against rookie right-hander Ben Diggins (0-4) after
two innings.

Edgar Renteria added a two-out, two-run double in the fifth, and
pinch-hitter Wilson Delgado hit a solo homer in the eighth.

Morris gave up six hits, struck out four and walked one. The
right-hander will likely start Game 1 of the playoffs next week
against either Arizona or San Francisco.

"He's a stallion,'' Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "He was geared to pitch a good game.''

Brewers manager Jerry Royster also praised Morris after watching his team lose its 53rd road game, the most for Milwaukee since joining the NL in 1998.

"I like him, I love him. Come playoff time, I like him even more,'' Royster said. "These are kind of tuneups and he wants to do good. He got better as the game went on. I'm sure there's no one more competitive than him in our league, so he'll step up.''

The Brewers are two road losses from tying the club record set
in 1970, with three games left in St. Louis.

On the brink of matching the major league record for strikeouts in a season, Milwaukee's Jose Hernandez was held out of the lineup by Royster, who said all the media attention surrounding the dubious mark "is kind of making a mockery of it.''

Hernandez has struck out 188 times this season, one shy of the
record set by Bobby Bonds in 1970.

After losing to St. Louis, Royster would not say if Hernandez will play again this season.

"Maybe, probably, maybe not,'' Royster said. "If he's not
playing Saturday, he won't play for sure.''

Drew's two-out, two-run homer in the first, his 18th, gave him eight RBI in his past five games.

Drew hit a three-run shot off 23-game winner Curt Schilling in Wednesday's 6-1 victory that closed out St. Louis' three-game sweep of Arizona, a day after Drew had a solo shot.

In the second, Renteria walked, stole second and advanced to
third on Mike Matheny's infield single to Brewers shortstop Bill
Hall. But when Hall held onto the ball, Renteria alertly raced home
from third.

Later that inning, Fernando Vina's RBI single was followed by
Marrero's home run, his 18th, to left field.

Milwaukee's Eric Young sent the game's first pitch to the
center-field fence for a double and scored on Lenny Harris'
sacrifice fly.

Diggins lasted four innings, giving up six runs on six hits.

The loss came a day after the Brewers replaced team president
Wendy Selig-Prieb and general manager Dean Taylor. Milwaukee
(55-104) has lost more than 100 games for the first time in
franchise history.

Game notes
Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols was rested. La Russa said
Pujols will play the rest of the series. ... 1B Tino Martinez and
CF Jim Edmonds returned to the Cardinals lineup. Edmonds had missed
two games with soreness, and Martinez one game with tightness in
his legs.