MIAMI -- The Cardinals have one of the most feared lineups in baseball, and the heart of their order delivered in a big way on Friday.
Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman each had key hits as the Cardinals beat the Marlins, 3-2, before 19,303 fans at Sun Life Stadium.
"Our three superstars in the middle had a heck of a night," manager Tony La Russa said.
Berkman had the biggest day of the three as he smacked a triple and scored a run in the fourth, and added the go-ahead double in the eighth.
Holliday got the Cardinals' offense going when he homered for the second straight night to tie the game at 1. The solo shot to open the fourth inning was Holliday's fourth homer in the last five days.
Pujols chipped in with a leadoff double in the eighth and later scored on Berkman's double.
"It's hard to do it every night because that's just the nature of the game," Berkman said. "But this is the time of the season where the three of us really need to step up and provide a good offensive punch in the middle if we're going to win this thing. Tonight was a good start."
While the Cardinals got key production from the heart of their order, it was one of the Marlins' young sluggers that got their offense going against Jake Westbrook.
In the bottom of the third, Mike Stanton lined a two-out triple to right-center that pushed home Greg Dobbs to give the Marlins their first lead of the series. Stanton finished with three hits on the night.
But Holliday's homer would even the score until Marlins catcher John Buck singled home Gaby Sanchez to tie the game again. Westbrook went unscathed over the next two innings to finish allowing just a pair of runs over six frames.
"I thought Jake definitely did his part," La Russa said. "He gave us six innings in the heat. I think Jake deserves special credit. He didn't get the win, but he did a great job for us."
Marlins starter Anibal Sanchez pitched deeper into the game than Westbrook and held the potent Cardinals lineup in check for most of it. But the right-hander struggled in the eighth, allowing a leadoff double to Pujols and then the one-out double to Berkman that ended his night and put St. Louis ahead to stay.
"The difference was not being able to throw out those big guys as usual," Marlins interim manager Jack McKeon said. "Albert got the better of him in that situation. When you get in those situations, you've got to not let the big guys hurt you. Find a way."
The Marlins found a way to threaten in the bottom of the ninth. With two outs, they had the bases loaded and Stanton at the plate.
"We had the perfect scenario. You couldn't have written it up any better," McKeon said. "The way that Stanton's been hitting the ball, you're kind of hoping that he could get up there. You could just visualize him hitting a line shot to left-center, but it didn't happen."
But rookie reliever Lance Lynn struck out Stanton to end the game and earn his first big league save.
"I just challenged him with fastballs," Lynn said. "Last night I faced him and I didn't show him any offspeed pitches. Tonight I think I put it in his mind after the first pitch. I showed him that I would throw it to him, so I think he knew that I might come back with it and I was able to get the fastball by him."
David Villavicencio is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.