Winless in his last eight starts of the regular season, Morris won a game Saturday night bigger than any of those. He held the San Diego Padres hitless for 4 1/3 innings and made it through six innings as the St. Louis Cardinals swept their National League Division Series with a 7-4 victory.
Morris allowed two runs in the fifth inning on RBI singles by Eric Young and Mark Loretta, but with runners on the corners, he struck out Ryan Klesko to end the inning and control the damage. He made 106 pitches, and his biggest contribution might have been with his legs.
With St. Louis leading, 1-0, Morris was asked to bunt with one out in the second inning after Yadier Molina's single. Morris' bunt wasn't a beauty, bouncing right to pitcher Woody Williams, who threw to second to get Molina. But Morris ran hard down the line to beat shortstop Khalil Greene's hurried throw in the dirt, avoiding the double play as the throw bounced away from second baseman Loretta.
Instead of the inning being over, David Eckstein came to bat with Morris on first base and slugged a two-run homer. Jim Edmonds then doubled, Albert Pujols was walked intentionally, Larry Walker was hit by a pitch after falling behind 0-2 and Reggie Sanders doubled in two.
"That was the key right there," Eckstein said of Morris' hustle. "That extended the inning. He could have just jogged down the line and let them turn a double play. We're fortunate he ran hard and through the base. But this club does that. We're able to score extra runs because of that."
Morris, of course, is counted on more for his arm, and he came through with that, too. He credited his offense, which for the third consecutive game provided the starting pitcher with a comfortable early lead -- 5-0 through two innings in this case. St. Louis outscored San Diego, 13-0, over the first four innings of each game. The Padres never scored earlier than the fifth inning.
"It's nice to be in that position, two games up and getting runs early," said Morris. "It gives a pitcher a lot of confidence to throw the ball over the plate. I threw a lot of fastballs early. I had a lot of confidence in the fastball tonight. I got to speed up with the fastball and later on threw the curveball. The team put up runs and it all worked out."
The doubters looked at Morris' 1-5 postseason record and personal five-game losing streak at season's end and wondered why he was getting the ball. But not his teammates.
"I saw his postseason record was 1-5, and I was really surprised," said Edmonds. "I remember some of the games he pitched -- two hits, one run against Arizona a couple years ago. He's a big-game pitcher."
Nonetheless, there was much speculation that La Russa would be tempted to start Jeff Suppan or Jason Marquis instead, but he stuck with Morris, a nine-year veteran and the Cardinal with the longest tenure.
"You don't want to let him down," Morris said of La Russa. "Marquis and Suppan deserve the ball. I appreciate getting the chance. Tony and I have been together a long time. He's shown tremendous support and I want to reward him for that support. I was waiting for this game. I had a lot of anxiety waiting for it."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.