St. Louis on a tear; Hampton still winless

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- 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 RBI 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 Thursday.

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.

A pair of unique doubles led to another run that made it 4-0 in

the fifth. With two outs, Renteria doubled on weak grounder that

deflected off the glove DeRosa, ranging far to his left, and then

scooted past shortstop Jesse Garcia.

Drew slipped and fell on the wet turf trying to chase down

Edmonds' drive near the warning track in right field and just

missed making the catch while seated.

Drew, traded from St. Louis to Atlanta in the offseason, hit his

fifth homer after Marcus Giles singled to open the sixth. The drive

to right was estimated at 436 feet, longer than any Cardinals homer

this year.

"It's good, it's kind of neat, I think," Drew said. "Anytime

you can get them, anywhere you can get 'em, it's nice."

Edmonds hit his eighth homer in the eighth off Chris Reitsma.

Hampton lasted six innings and allowed four runs on eight hits

while remaining winless in seven starts.

"When it's going like it is now, you've just got to take the

positives," Hampton said. "I feel I'm throwing the ball better.

Eventually, my luck is going to change."Game notes
Cardinals OF Reggie Sanders broke his bat on a groundout in

the seventh, and a piece of it glanced off the back of Braves

reliever Kevin Gryboski. ... Renteria's homer was the 17th off a

Braves starter. Atlanta entered with a major league-low 16 allowed.

... The Braves have scored 45 runs in their 18 losses, and 105 in

their 14 victories. ... Cardinals starters have worked 31 innings

in the last four games. ... The start of the game was delayed 27

minutes by rain. ... 2B Hector Luna made an outstanding

over-the-shoulder running catch of Brian Giles' pop-up to shallow

right in the third, a play that La Russa said reminded him of Ozzie

Smith. "That was as good a play as you can make on a pop-up," La

Russa said. "That was an Ozzie-like play."