Morris breezed in his first start since offseason shoulder surgery, limiting the Pirates to one run and four hits in six innings Tuesday night and leading the Cardinals to a 7-1 victory and a two-game sweep in Pittsburgh.
Jim Edmonds homered for the second consecutive night and Larry Walker and Albert Pujols each drove in two runs as the Cardinals outscored the Pirates 18-2 in the series. The Pirates’ 4-10 start, including a 1-6 home record, is their worst since they were 4-13 in 1995.
At least there’s one team that knows how to win in PNC Park. The Cardinals are 27-9 there since the ballpark opened in 2001, including sweeps of four and three games last season.
“It was a real good day for us,” manager Tony La Russa said.
Aren’t they almost always for the Cardinals in Pittsburgh?
Morris (1-0), a 15-game winner despite pitching with severe shoulder pain last season, couldn’t have asked for a much better debut following two minor league rehabilitation starts.
The right-hander needed only 71 pitches—14 fewer than his planned limit— while striking out seven and walking one. The Pirates’ only run came on Daryle Ward’s homer, his second, leading off the second.
“I was anxious and nervous for today, but I’m happy now,” said Morris, who returned weeks earlier than initially projected after he had surgery in November. “As the game went on, I was able to get comfortable and put the ball where I wanted to, which is a plus. Coming off an injury, sometimes you start to fade away.”
The Cardinals helped Morris with a four-run second inning, following up their nine-run ninth during their 11-1 rout Monday. They didn’t need much help against Josh Fogg (1-1), who is 1-7 against them with seven consecutive losses, but got plenty from a sloppy Pirates defense.
Only two of the six runs Fogg allowed in five innings were earned, and the pitcher was his own worst enemy.
Fogg threw Yadier Molina’s groundball into center field for a two-base throwing error on a potential double-play grounder that would have ended the second with only one run scoring.
“It’s just a mental lapse by me,” Fogg said. “You can’t make these kind of mistakes.”
In the fourth, Fogg threw to the wrong man on another possible double play grounder—rather than shortstop Jack Wilson, who was covering second base, he threw instead to second baseman Rob Mackowiak, who was well off the bag.
“For some reason he just panicked, and it cost him 4-5 runs,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “This is a guy who knows how to field.”
There was more, perfectly illustrating a season that is quickly slipping away from the Pirates. First baseman Ward booted Walker’s grounder just ahead of Fogg’s wild throw in the second. And Pujols got a gift RBI double in the second because Craig Wilson started back on a fly ball that fell in short left field.
“Against the real good teams, you can’t do things like that,” McClendon said of the Pirates’ numerous misplays.
Edmonds led off the second inning with his fifth homer—the fourth off Fogg in three starts—and former Pirates infielder Abraham Nunez singled for the first of his career high-tying four hits. After Mark Grudzielanek walked, Walker singled in two runs.
Nunez was waived by the Pirates after last season, only to enjoy a career day against them.
“How about that?” La Russa said. “I’m sure he was excited about playing here, and to have this kind of day is hard to believe.”
Morris allowed only two hits after Ward’s homer, consecutive singles by Ward and Bobby Hill in the fourth.
“He’s impressed us all spring—he looks so much like himself,” La Russa said. “That’s a real pick-me-up today. If we have Matt Morris throwing that way all year long …”
Morris is 9-4 against Pittsburgh and 5-0 in his last six starts in PNC Park. … St. Louis finished a 5-0 road trip to Milwaukee and Pittsburgh, the Pirates a 1-4 homestand against the Cubs and Cardinals. … Pujols went 2-for-3 against Fogg and is 11-for-23 against him for his career. … St. Louis is 5-0 in night games. … Ray King, Al Reyes and Randy Flores followed Morris with a scoreless inning each. Cardinals relievers have pitched 14 2-3 scoreless innings over seven games.