Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen each hit monster two-run homers and
the Cardinals battered Johnson for a season-worst 10 hits in six
innings in a 12-2 rout of the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday night
in the opener of their NL division series.
Matt Morris, the number "57'' and initials of late teammate
Darryl Kile written on his hat, settled down after a shaky start to
get the victory, something he failed to do in two outstanding
outings against Arizona in last year's division series.
"We've got a lot of desire and a lot of heart,'' Morris said, "and it seemed to pay off today.''
When Morris finished his seven strong innings, teammate Andy Benes hugged him in the dugout and said, "You stood tall.''
The Diamondbacks, meanwhile, looked nothing like the calm, efficient World Series champions, especially the big guy on the mound.
From the start, Johnson was not his scowling, intimidating self.
His fastball never topped 95 mph. His slider had none of the nasty
snap that has befuddled hitters all season. The man who is No. 4 on
the career strikeout list managed to fan only four, two of them on
foul third-strike bunt attempts by Morris.
"I feel very, very bad that I put us in such a deep hole from the get-go,'' Johnson said. "My slider was flat. My fastball fell on the middle of the plate. Going up against probably the best lineup in the National League, the two don't mix.''
When Johnson left, bad turned to worse for the Diamondbacks. The Cardinals scored six runs off relievers Matt Mantei, Greg Swindell and Mike Fetters in the most one-sided postseason defeat ever for the Diamondbacks.
With two days off during the best-of-5 series, the Cardinals have to beat Johnson and/or Curt Schilling twice.
Schilling will go against Chuck Finley in Game 2 on Thursday.
Johnson had gone 5-0 with an 0.66 ERA in September and was 13-1 in his last 15 starts. In the process, he became the first NL pitcher in 17 years to win the pitching Triple Crown of victories (24), strikeouts (334) and ERA (2.32).
Morris allowed single runs in the first and third innings, then
shut down the Diamondbacks. He gave up seven hits, struck out three
and walked two in seven innings. It was a strong outing for the
Cardinal hit hardest by Kile's death of a heart attack June 22 in
his hotel room in Chicago.
"Today's game was our offense,'' Morris said.
A year ago, St. Louis handed Johnson his lone loss of the playoffs in Game 2 of the division series, extending his postseason losing streak to seven. He won the next five, a playoff record, three of them in the World Series.
But he was in trouble in a hurry against the powerhouse lineup
of the Cardinals.
Fernando Vina, who was 3-for-5 and scored twice, began the game with a routine grounder to shortstop Tony Womack, who threw wildly to first for an error. One out later, Edmonds hit a 1-1 pitch far into the right field seats.
The two first-inning runs were more than St. Louis scored for
Morris in both of his starts in last season's division series
against the Diamondbacks. Arizona won those two games 1-0 and 2-1.
Edmonds was 3-for-4, with singles in the third and fifth.
The Diamondbacks had four baserunners against Morris, but
managed only one run in their half of the first.
Rolen made a spectacular play at third base in the third on
Junior Spivey's high chopper. Rolen leaped to get the ball. While
he was falling back, threw to first, where umpire Bill Miller called the runner out.
Arizona manager Bob Brenly protested, and replays showed that
Spivey appeared to reach the base just ahead of the throw.
Morris walked the next two batters. After Williams fouled out,
Quinton McCracken singled to left to bring home the tying run.
The Cardinals got five hits off Johnson in the third, including
Mike Matheny's two-out RBI single that made it 5-2.
The Diamondbacks were 55-15 in games started by Johnson and Schilling this season. ... Arizona's Rick Helling made his first relief appearance since Aug. 15, 1997. ... The Cardinals have won
five straight over Arizona, counting their three-game sweep in St. Louis last week. ... Benes gets the start in Game 3 Saturday because of Woody Williams' strained left oblique muscle.