DENVER -- As the Cardinals continue to wait on the return of Matt Holliday, they received quite a consolation prize on Friday night. Colby Rasmus is back.
Rasmus emerged from a slump that had lasted nearly two weeks with a huge game to spearhead a 10-3 Cardinals win over the Rockies at Coors Field. He collected four base hits, including two triples, as the Redbirds broke a teamwide offensive malaise against the scuffling Ubaldo Jimenez and the Rockies bullpen.
St. Louis has done without Holliday, its cleanup hitter, for much of the past week-plus, and his absence has been felt. But on Friday, the rest of the lineup more than picked up the slack, starting with Rasmus. He had been 1-for-25 with eight walks over his previous nine games. During that time he also dealt with an abdominal strain that sidelined him for a few games and limited his weight training.
However, with an off-day under his belt to rest up and an aggressive opposing pitcher on the mound in Jimenez, Rasmus looked like the hitter who was so effective for much of April. He picked up his fourth and fifth triples, moving within one of the Major League lead, and totaled three RBIs for the second time this year.
"That's what I come ready to do, is get hits," Rasmus said. "I ain't coming up there to not drive in runs or get hits. It's not fun for me to go up there and get out. So tonight is a big night."
In picking up the win, the Cards also banished some ugly memories. Approximately 11 months earlier, they took a 9-3 lead into the ninth inning at Coors, only to endure one of the ugliest meltdowns in recent memory in a 12-9 defeat.
Much credit for avoiding a similar fate must go to the revamped Cardinals bullpen, which turned in very strong work behind starter Jake Westbrook. Miguel Batista pitched a perfect sixth and seventh after Westbrook was removed for a pinch-hitter.
Brian Tallet and Eduardo Sanchez tag-teamed the eighth, though Sanchez came in earlier than expected when Tallet was removed due to injury. Jason Motte tossed the ninth. Cards relievers struck out three and didn't allow a hit or a walk, though they did hit two batters.
"I didn't need last year to know that you go three outs per inning and every time you see something that's vulnerable, if you have a defense against it, you try to use it," La Russa said.
The manager moved aggressively for offense in the sixth inning. With one out, a runner on second and two runs already across, La Russa removed Westbrook for pinch-hitter Holliday, who has been sidelined due to discomfort in his left quadriceps. Holliday was intentionally walked and immediately removed for pinch-runner Kyle Lohse -- arguably an ideal scenario, with Holliday providing a free baserunner without having to run at all.
A single and a wild pitch brought Lohse home as the Redbirds stretched their lead.
"Every time you've got a chance to score a run here, you've got to go for the chance," La Russa said.
The Cardinals hit Jimenez early and often, hanging a run on him in the first and two more in the third before both starters settled down in the fourth and fifth. In the sixth, though, they jumped on Jimenez. Allen Craig poked a leadoff single, and after he was removed for pinch-runner Tyler Greene, Rasmus tripled to center for a 4-3 Cards lead.
The Cardinals rallied for the two additional runs in the sixth, and added on three more an inning later. A walk and a bunt single brought up Rasmus in the seventh, and he added another triple, this one down the line in right, to plate two more runs. Rasmus reveled in the opportunity to face the hard-throwing Jimenez, rather than some of the offspeed-oriented hurlers he's seen recently.
"I like facing guys like that, for sure," he said. "He's not scared to throw it over the plate, because he's got good stuff."
Rasmus was far from the only Cardinal who found the mountain air refreshing. The Cards rapped 19 hits, which tied a season high, including six for extra bases. The top six batters in the starting lineup each had at least two hits in the victory.
St. Louis had not scored more than four runs in any of its previous 11 games in which Holliday did not start. The Cards scored their most runs since April 28.
"Their offensive approach tonight was terrific," said Colorado manager Jim Tracy. "I don't know what the exact number is, but I can promise you it's a bunch of opposite-field hits, two-strike hits the other way. They just stayed right with the ball and hit it the other way. Just a very, very professional approach."
The Cardinals improved to 31-21 on the year, getting back to their season-best mark of 10 games over .500. They lead the second-place Brewers by 3 1/2 games in the National League Central. The Reds are in third place, four games back.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.