CINCINNATI — Matt Morris knew he had a chance, even after a rough first inning.
Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen each hit two-run home runs to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a 7-2 victory against the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday.
Morris (10-6) settled down after giving up hits to the first two batters and worked out of a jam in the sixth for his second consecutive win against Cincinnati.
“It’s a big tribute to the way the guys play behind me,” Morris said. “They see me scuffling. They show me each time I’m out there that they’re willing to do the little things necessary to win the ballgame.
“You know they’re going to score runs. It’s just a question of the pitcher not getting frustrated.”
Frustration could have set in early, when Morris fielded Barry Larkin’s dribbler in the first inning and threw the ball into the stands behind first base, allowing Ryan Freel, who led off with a single, to score.
“I thought I was going to be buried after the first,” Morris said. “But I kept pitching the same way.”
Second baseman Tony Womack’s nifty play saved a run in the third when D’Angelo Jimenez hit a grounder that glanced off first baseman Pujols’ glove into short right field. Womack chased down the ball and threw out Jimenez, leaving a runner stranded.
“I almost gave up on it,” said Morris, who covered first. “It looked like the ball was going to squirt through. Then I saw Tony come up with it.”
That play ended the third inning, and the run production started when the Cardinals came to bat in the fourth.
Until the fourth, Jesus Sanchez (0-2) allowed two base runners, Edgar Renteria’s single in the first inning and a walk to Reggie Sanders in the second. Renteria led off the fourth with a single and Pujols followed with his 23rd home run, a line drive to left.
One out later, Sanders walked again, stole second, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on So Taguchi’s perfectly placed bunt hit down the third-base line.
Taguchi then scored from first on Mike Matheny’s double to the wall in right-center to make it 4-1.
“Sanchez got into some problems in the fourth. He got behind some hitters, and they made him pay for it,” Reds manager Dave Miley said. “We had multiple opportunities, but we couldn’t capitalize.”
The Reds were 2-of-17 with runners in scoring position.
“I threw pretty good for the first few innings, but in the fourth, I left a couple of pitches up and got behind in the count. And they got me,” Sanchez said.
Morris allowed eight hits, one walk and struck out four in six innings.