Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Cardinals 12, Diamondbacks 2


St. Louis homers sends Johnson to early shower

The Associated Press

        PHOENIX — The St. Louis Cardinals treated Randy Johnson like some minor league nobody, and finally gave Matt Morris the postseason support he deserved.

        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.

        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.

        With Kile's widow, Flynn, among the capacity crowd of 49,154, Edmonds launched a 424-footer to right in the first inning and Rolen hit a 427-foot shot to left-center in the third.

        “This whole year is for Darryl,” the Cardinals' Fernando Vina said. ”(His death) crushed us all, and we're still crushed.”

        Johnson, 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.

        The Cardinals looked as if they knew what pitch was coming, leading to rumors that he was somehow tipping off his pitches. Not so, St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said.

        “We don't have anything on Randy,” La Russa said. “What we've got is a bunch of good hitters who respect him and swing hard and tonight they got some hits.”

        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.

        “We scored a couple of runs early off him,” Arizona's Mark Grace said. “We were hitting his fastball, then he really went to his breaking ball, and he had his good breaking ball tonight.”

        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.

        Vina, who was 3-for-6 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.

        “When you get beat 12-2, it's hard to blame it on the umpiring,” Brenly said.

        Notes: 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.

       



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