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Cards counting on Morris10/19/2004 4:34 PM ET
By Rich Draper / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- How can you judge a pitcher's heart as he faces the biggest game of his life?
In St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Matt Morris's case, electrocardiogram readouts won't do, although you can bet your sphygmomanometer that his pulse rate will rise and blood pressure will be percolating when he opposes the Houston Astros in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday at Busch Stadium.
Being hyped is part of a hurler's natural weaponry, not that those human ka-thump, ka-thump stats will show.
But Morris, at 30, is the ultimate professional, having pitched in 218 regular-season games and logged 12 postseason appearances, including a no-decision in Game 2 of the best-of-seven NLCS in the Cardinals' victory, which gave them a short-lived 2-0 series lead.
That has changed with the Astros' three-game sweep at Minute Maid Park, as Houston leads 3-2 and is only one triumph away from going to the World Series.
The Cardinals' hopes are on Morris now, but pitching coach Dave Duncan has no qualms about putting the seven-year veteran on the hill in a live-or-die contest.
"If he goes out and pitches like I think he will, he'll show you his heart and soul," said Duncan. "He's going to go out there determined to win the game, and he's going to be ready for it. When he's faced big games before, he's been focused and knows what he has to do, and it'll be the same thing tomorrow."
Keep the ball down in strike zone, make quality pitches, change speeds -- those are the thing that must be the same.
Followers of Morris' career know he was 15-10 with St. Louis this season, but his record in 11 postseason contests is not as strong. The veteran has a 1-4 record and 3.59 ERA, and in the NLDS and NLCS this year he's 0-1 with a 5.25 ERA and has given up four homers in 12 1/3 innings.
It's not exactly lights out, but Morris says losing is not in his -- or the Cardinals' -- vocabulary, not after winning 105 games and roaring into the playoffs.
"The beauty about this team, we've been taking it one game at a time," Morris said. "So, tomorrow, it's just another game for us. It's do or die, but I think the guys that we have in our clubhouse are professional enough to go out and do their job and go about it the right way.
"We'll take our chances like that," added Morris, who realizes he hasn't been sharp in the postseason, but expects a better performance in this must-win game.
"In my career I've pitched better, so I know I'm capable of better," said the Redbirds starter. "But I'm going to deal with what I've got, and go out there and make as many pitches as I can."
The last time out in Game 2, Morris gave up three runs through five innings, but the Cardinals scratched out four tallies in the bottom of the fifth to bail him out.
Morris had three complete games this season and would love to last into the seventh or beyond, especially with the vaunted St. Louis bullpen not having an exemplary postseason.
Witness Jason Isringhausen's ninth inning on Monday -- a three-run, game-winning homer by Jeff Kent in a 3-0 Astros win at Houston.
It's enough to raise questions about a bullpen that led the Majors in ERA during the regular season, but Morris said he feels the team will come through in this critical game. Besides, they're in Busch Stadium before a teeming mass of Redbirds fans and the stakes are high.
"We all have a common goal of winning a World Series," said Morris. "But our backs are against the wall right now, and this team has a lot of heart and we've been doing it all year. We're hoping we can continue."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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