Cardinals’ Morris baffles Braves

Hurler masters different style; St. Louis notches third straight victory

? Matt Morris used to throw in the mid-90s. Now, he confuses hitters with his off-speed stuff.

Morris pitched eight solid innings, helping the St. Louis Cardinals win their third straight with a 5-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night.

“I’m just trying to mix it up,” Morris said. “I’m not thinking about striking guys out much.”

So Taguchi and Jim Edmonds homered, and Edgar Renteria had two hits and two RBIs for the Cardinals.

St. Louis won the opener 5-1, and has won three in a row for the first time since April 20-22, when they swept the Astros in Houston, which is also the last time they were two games above .500.

“When we’re only two (games) over .500, I don’t think we’re clicking,” manager Tony La Russa said. “We need to get 10 games over .500 to have that first click.”

Morris (4-3) kept the Braves off-balance with an assortment of mostly off-speed pitches, allowing two runs on six hits with five strikeouts and one walk.

He beat the Braves for the first time in eight career starts after entering 0-5 with a 3.44 ERA against them.

“I just saw that today,” Morris said. “I knew I hadn’t had many wins, but I didn’t know I didn’t have any. I thought I pitched well always against them and was always in the game but was never able to get that win, so it’s nice to get it tonight.”

Jason Isringhausen worked the ninth for his sixth save in seven chances.

Atlanta got a two-run homer from J.D. Drew, but the Braves have lost six of seven and totaled 15 runs in that span. They have 11 hits in the first two games of the series.

“We’re just not swinging the bats,” third baseman Mark DeRosa said after going 0-for-4. “I’m scuffling beyond belief.”

The loss ensured the Braves of losing five series in a row for the first time since Aug. 8-24, 1988. The finale of the three-game series is today.

Back-to-back two-out infield hits by Reggie Sanders and Albert Pujols, and a walk to Scott Rolen set up Renteria’s two-run single off Mike Hampton (0-4) in the third.

Taguchi led off the fourth with his first homer of the season.

Dodgers 4, Cubs 0

Los Angeles — Wilson Alvarez held Chicago scoreless into the eighth inning, Alex Cora hit a two-run homer, and Los Angeles won its sixth in a row. Alvarez (2-0) gave up five hits with his second impressive outing in a row since rejoining the Dodgers’ starting rotation. He struck out eight. Guillermo Mota retired all four batters he faced to complete the shutout.

Giants 4, Phillies 3

San Francisco — Jason Schmidt homered and allowed six hits over eight innings, leading San Francisco over Philadelphia. Pedro Feliz homered twice and Jeffrey Hammonds also connected for the Giants, who stopped Philadelphia’s season-high four-game winning streak. Barry Bonds failed to reach base for the first time in 31 games this season, going 0-for-4 with two flyouts and two groundouts.

Padres 2, Reds 1

San Diego — Brian Giles hit a two-run homer in the first inning and San Diego made the most of its six hits in beating Cory Lidle and Cincinnati. Lidle (2-3) pitched efficiently once he got out of the first, but by then he was down 2-0.

Mets 1, Diamondbacks 0

Phoenix — Kazuo Matsui’s home run to start the game gave Tom Glavine and New York a victory over Randy Johnson and Arizona. Glavine and Johnson each allowed three hits in a duel between two of the game’s best lefties. Glavine (5-2), who has not thrown a complete game in two years, struck out three and walked two, one intentionally, in 72/3 innings.

Marlins 5, Astros 2

Houston — Dontrelle Willis pitched a six-hitter and Mike Lowell homered twice, leading Florida over Houston. Coming off his first loss of the season against Los Angeles last week, Willis (4-1) bounced back with a strong performance facing the NL’s top-hitting team. Willis’ herky-jerky delivery baffled the Astros all night, not surprising considering it was the first time Houston had faced the left-hander. The 2003 NL Rookie of the Year walked two and struck out one.

Brewers 4, Expos 3

Milwaukee — Lyle Overbay extended his hitting streak to a season-high 13 games with a two-run double that helped Milwaukee beat Montreal, the Brewers’ second straight come-from-behind win.