Progress, in spots, by Morton


ST. LOUIS — Charlie Morton continued to show signs of a turnaround — more or less — in Monday’s 6-4 loss against the Cardinals.

Morton worked six innings and allowed four runs on a season-high 10 hits. He struck out four and walked none. It was his fourth straight start without taking a loss. It lowered his ERA to 7.94 (five weeks ago, it was 10.03).

Hey, baby steps, right?

Yet, Morton was unable to hold a 4-2 lead in the sixth. He gave up a leadoff single to Albert Pujols. Matt Holliday then vaporized the first pitch he saw, a changeup that hung right over the middle of the plate, for a two-run homer.

The pitch was supposed to go a bit more inside, Morton said. “I wanted him to pull it foul. I wanted him to swing at it. I just didn’t do anything. It just stayed there for him and he did what he does.”

The rest of the inning was uneventful — a strikeout and two grounders by the Cardinals. Manager John Russell found that encouraging.

“He gave up the two-run homer and pitched really well to the next three hitters,” Russell said. “That’s a great sign for Charlie.”

A few months ago, that inning likely would have exploded beyond just two runs. Holliday’s homer probably would’ve been followed by more hits, more runs, more frustration.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of would it have gone differently before,” Morton said. “Obviously, it did go differently. Those other things were happening early in the year. Now, you see different results. You can credit me with that, but I should do that. That’s what I should do.

“So I feel like instead of finishing a game and feeling confused by what happened and just being frustrated in general, and not being able to look at myself in the mirror, now I know. I made a stupid pitch. I didn’t execute. In that regard, yeah, I think I’ve come a long way toward getting back to where I was when I was successful.”

Morton (2-11) will make his final start of the season Saturday against the Marlins.