ST. LOUIS -- Matt Holliday had some very big pants to fill, and he did them justice.
Wearing a pair of pants that normally belong to Cardinals Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst, Holliday delivered one of the biggest hits of his Cardinals career on Saturday night. He drilled a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning to send the Redbirds to a desperately needed 5-4 win over the Royals. Holliday's blast traveled 422 feet and lifted the Cardinals a lot farther than that.
Holliday needed Schoendienst's trousers, which he got from the club's equipment manager before the game, because he decided at the last minute to participate in a little slump-busting activity. Several Cardinals wore their pants with the cuffs pulled up high to reveal their socks, in hopes of changing the luck that had seen them lose seven straight coming into the game.
"A couple of our little fellas were doing it, so I decided to join in," Holliday said, taking a playful jab at infielders Skip Schumaker and Ryan Theriot.
"It was actually Red Schoendienst's pants. I figured there were a few hits in Red's pants."
The Cards had fallen behind an inning earlier, when Alex Gordon pummeled Jake Westbrook's 119th pitch for a tiebreaking solo homer. Manager Tony La Russa had elected to stay with Westbrook rather than turn to a fraying bullpen, and the decision backfired on him.
In the eighth, though, the game took on a totally different cast. Slumping Colby Rasmus drilled a leadoff single against tough lefty Tim Collins. Albert Pujols hit what should have been a double-play ball, but with Rasmus running on the pitch, he beat out the first throw. Pujols was out at first, but Holliday came to bat with a runner on second and one out, and he took advantage.
Holliday took a strike before jumping on the definition of a hitter's pitch. Greg Holland ramped a fastball up to 96 mph, but he left it middle-middle, and Holliday did what good hitters do to pitches like that. He drilled it well over Melky Cabrera's head in center, onto the grass berm behind the 400-foot sign.
"I'd never faced him," Holliday said, "but everybody in their bullpen throws 95 or 96 [mph]. So you'd better be ready for the fastball. I just tried to see one on the first pitch, see what it looks like, and then go from there. They've got a really good bullpen. Every guy they bring out of that is a tough at-bat."
The blast gave the win to reliever Jason Motte, who got the last two outs of the seventh. The St. Louis bullpen was solid in limited duty, with Trever Miller, Motte and Fernando Salas combining for two shutout innings. Salas has 12 saves in 13 chances.
Offensively, the Cardinals had plenty of good swings against starter Vin Mazzaro and the Royals bullpen but couldn't convert enough of them until the eighth. Kansas City's defense also played a part, with four straight superb plays in the fifth and sixth. One of those plays cost Holliday an RBI.
Theriot had led off the inning with a single, but had advanced no farther. With two outs, Holliday drilled a double to center field. Cabrera chased it down and fired to the infield, and shortstop Alcides Escobar made a perfect throw home to retire Theriot. Cabrera stole a home run from Lance Berkman to lead off the next inning, followed by excellent plays on grounders by third baseman Mike Moustakas and first baseman Eric Hosmer.
They could only keep the Cards off the board for so long, though. Holland made a mistake to Holliday, and the slugger crushed it. Holliday is now 11-for-26 (.423) with three home runs and six RBIs in "late and close" situations this year.
"I knew it was a bad pitch before he hit it," Holland said. "Then when he hit it, I knew it was a really bad pitch."
The Cardinals got back to six games over .500, avoiding what would have been their longest losing streak since 2007. They remained one game behind the Brewers in the National League Central division.
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.