Matt Morris hasn’t won a game in more than two months.
Yet, St. Louis manager Tony La Russa is relying on him to come up with a big outing in the second game of the Cardinals’ day-night doubleheader against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
The teams are making up a May 11 rainout, transforming their four-game series into a five-game set.
“It’s the Sparky Anderson theory,” La Russa said. “If you’ve got a starter that you can count on, you save him for the second game.”
Morris hasn’t received a decision in two starts since coming off the disabled list Aug. 23. The right-hander, who had been out since July 22 with a broken hand and sprained left ankle, has allowed just three runs over 12 innings since his return.
In the Cardinals’ 3-2 victory over the Cubs on Thursday, Morris allowed two runs and four hits over seven innings, striking out two and walking one.
It was his sharpest outing since posting consecutive shutouts from May 19-24 against the Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates, respectively.
Morris hasn’t won since a 9-6 victory over Cincinnati on June 25.
“I feel better and better,” Morris said. “I think this was the first time in a long time where I was able to get into counts and throw the ball where I wanted and have some confidence doing it.
“I’m pretty happy with my progression these two starts.”
Prior scattered five hits in eight innings and also had an RBI single in improving to 6-0 with an 0.57 ERA since coming off the disabled list Aug. 5.
Eric Karros homered and had an RBI single, while Kenny Lofton and Tony Womack each had three hits and an RBI for the Cubs, who have won just two of their last six games but remain 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Astros and Cardinals.
STANDINGS: Cardinals - 1st place (tied), NL Central. Cubs - 3rd place, 1 1/2 GB, NL Central.
CARDINALS GAME ONE PROBABLE STARTER: Jason Simontacchi (8-4, 5.84 ERA). Simontacchi, who has also been used as a reliever, is 5-4 with a 6.72 ERA in 15 starts. The right-hander has started since a 9-5 victory over San Francisco on July 3 in which he allowed five runs and seven hits over six innings, striking out five and walking one. Simontacchi is 1-2 with a 5.73 ERA in four career starts against the Cubs.
CUBS GAME ONE PROBABLE STARTER: Carlos Zambrano (12-9, 2.88 ERA). Zambrano is 6-1 with a 1.50 ERA over his last eight starts. The 22-year-old right-hander didn’t receive a decision in the Cubs’ 3-2 loss to the Cardinals on Thursday, allowing two runs—one earned—and eight hits over seven innings while striking out six and walking three. Zambrano is 0-3 with a 1.50 ERA in five career appearances against St. Louis, including four starts.
CARDINALS GAME TWO PROBABLE STARTER: Morris (8-6, 4.00 ERA). In 19 career appearances against Chicago, including 16 starts, Morris is 9-2 with a 3.63 ERA, three complete games and two shutouts.
CUBS GAME TWO PROBABLE STARTER: Kerry Wood (11-10, 3.65 ERA). Wood is 0-2 with a 5.35 ERA over his last four starts. The 26-year-old right-hander didn’t receive a decision in the Cubs’ 4-2 loss to the Cardinals on Wednesday despite scattering four hits over seven scoreless innings. He struck out 11 and walked four. Wood is 5-4 with a 3.31 ERA with one shutout in 14 career starts against St. Louis.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Cardinals - Albert Pujols, .366 avg., 37 HRs, 114 RBIs and 117 runs; Edgar Renteria, 27 SBs. Cubs - Mark Grudzielanek, .305 avg.; Sammy Sosa, 31 HRs and 86 RBIs; Lofton, 81 runs and 28 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Cardinals, 8-5.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Cardinals - OF Pujols is hitting .333 in 24 career at-bats against RHP Wood with one double, three homers and five RBIs. … Of CF Edmonds’ 34 homers, 10 have come in the first inning and nine have come in the eighth or later. … St. Louis activated OF J.D. Drew and Cs Eli Marrero and Joe Girardi from the DL Monday. The Cards also recalled RHP Dan Haren and RHP Garrett Stephenson from Class-A Palm Beach. Cubs - OF Moises Alou is hitting .378 with six doubles, two homers and 11 RBIs in 45 career at-bats against RHP Morris. … OF Lofton is hitting .339 (43-for-127) with 11 RBIs, 23 runs and 10 stolen bases in 32 game since the Cubs acquired him from Pittsburgh on July 22. … 2B Grudzielanek, on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Iowa, will be activated from the DL and play in one of Tuesday’s games. The Cubs’ leading hitter has been out with a broken hand since Aug. 3.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Cardinals - 32-37 on the road; Cubs - 34-34 at home.
INJURIES: Cardinals - C Steve Torrealba (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Jimmy Journell (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Lance Painter (calf), 15-day DL; RHP Kiko Calero (knee), 60-day DL; RHP Chris Carpenter (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Gene Stechschulte (shoulder), 60-day DL. Cubs - RHP Dave Veres (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Scott Chiasson (elbow), 60-day DL; LHP Will Ohman (elbow), 60-day DL; OF Corey Patterson (knee), 60-day DL.