The Cubs will look to beat Morris for the sixth time in as many starts and grab sole possession of the NL Central lead as they conclude their three-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday at PNC Park.
Morris (8-9, 4.54 ERA) went 11-3 with a 3.82 ERA in 24 appearances against Chicago (72-69) from 1997-2004, leading the St. Louis Cardinals to a 19-5 record in those outings. Since signing as a free agent with the San Francisco Giants before the 2005 season, Morris is 0-5 with a 7.86 ERA against the Cubs. He will make his first appearance against the Cubs since the Pirates acquired the right-hander July 31.
Morris is 1-2 with a 5.18 ERA in seven starts for Pittsburgh (62-80), which traded for him even though he went 0-4 with a 7.94 ERA in his last eight outings for the Giants. Morris allowed five runs, five hits and three walks in five innings of a 6-2 loss on Tuesday at St. Louis, and has just one win since June 17.
“It’s hard when you’re out there competing and pitching to know what’s wrong with your mechanics,” Morris told the Pirates’ official Web site. “I’m trying to do the same things I’ve always done.”
The Cubs are trying to build on momentum from Carlos Zambrano’s first victory since July 29. Saturday’s 5-1 win kept the Cubs tied with the Milwaukee Brewers atop the NL Central, but increased their lead over the Cardinals to two games. Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run homer off Nate McLouth’s glove in the fifth inning, and Jacque Jones added two RBIs for Chicago, which had lost four of its previous five overall and four of five meetings with Pittsburgh.
“It was good to see our No. 1 starter win for first time in seven starts,” manager Lou Piniella said of Zambrano, who received a five-year, $91.5 million extension on Aug. 17.
The Pirates remained tied with the Houston Astros for last, and another loss would assure them a 15th straight non-winning season.
The Cubs hope right-hander Steve Trachsel (0-1, 4.50) can pick up his first win as he makes his second start since he was reacquired from the Baltimore Orioles on Aug. 31. Trachsel, who pitched with the Cubs from 1993-99, provided a quality start on Tuesday, allowing three runs and seven hits in six innings, but Chicago lost 6-2 to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Trachsel dropped to 1-5 with a 5.17 ERA in 13 starts since June 13.
“There is going to be a lot of excitement every single day, and at this point in my career, you can’t for much more, so it’s going to be a fun September,” Trachsel said.
Trachsel is 5-8 with a 3.16 ERA in 16 starts against the Pirates, going 2-3 with a 3.99 ERA in six starts in Pittsburgh.
After having five straight multihit games, Jack Wilson went 0-for-3 Saturday to lower his average to .411 (39-for-95) in 30 games since Aug. 1. Wilson is 1-for-13 against Trachsel.
Jason Bay left Saturday in the fourth inning with right knee soreness.
Derek Lee has hit .357 (10-for-28) with four homers, and Aramis Ramirez is batting .349 (15-for-43) with three homers off Morris. Ramirez has batted .331 (39-for-118) with seven homers and 23 RBIs in 32 games in Pittsburgh since the Pirates traded him on July 23, 2003.
The NL Central rivals begin their last three-game set on Sept. 21 at Wrigley Field.