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STL@FLA: Holliday singles to cushion Cards' lead

MIAMI -- The Cardinals wrapped up their road trip with a sweep, and they could not have done it without taking advantage of some defensive miscues by the Marlins.

Florida committed a pair of errors and had a few other misplays in the field, while slugger Matt Holliday drove in three runs to help the Cardinals beat the Marlins, 8-4, before 20,011 at Sun Life Stadium.

"They've been playing really good, and the games were really tight," manager Tony La Russa said. "In the end, we made pitches when we had to and got a couple bloopers to fall that helped us."

Holliday entered the game hitting .354 with runners in scoring position, and he delivered in a big way in the four-game series finale. The cleanup hitter had a pair of key hits, one to tie the game in the sixth and another to give the Cardinals some important insurance runs in the seventh.

"We got some breaks I think, but we've had some days where we haven't necessarily got them," Holliday said. "To sweep a team like that against the pitching that they threw at us was good for us."

Before Holliday could be the hero, it appeared like Marlins starter Javier Vazquez would be the big story on Sunday. Vazquez had allowed just a solo homer to Albert Pujols over the first five innings, and he even sparked the Marlins' offense with two hits and a run scored.

With Vazquez cruising and Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia laboring some over the first five innings, it appeared like the Marlins would be able to avoid the sweep. Garcia allowed just two runs over five innings, but the left-hander threw 97 pitches and found himself in several tough situations.

"Jaime is working too hard," La Russa said. "He looks good and then all of a sudden he gets a guy on base and he reaches and his delivery gets out. He's just got to stay. He's at 100 percent and he tries to go to 110, and that never helps anybody. That's my opinion."

Everything changed in the top of the sixth, as the Cardinals took advantage of the Marlins' mistakes.

With the Cards down by one, Corey Patterson pinch-hit for Garcia and delivered a leadoff double that Marlins left fielder Logan Morrison and shortstop Emilio Bonifacio misplayed. The two did not communicate, and it cost the Marlins.

"I wasn't even looking at Boni because I felt like it was pretty deep," Morrison said. "I didn't call it and I should've called it. I ended up [messing] it up for Javy and for us. If I make that play, it's three outs and we don't have to face Pujols or worry about any of that other stuff."

The hit did not seem to rattle Vazquez as he retired the next two batters before intentionally walking Pujols with two outs to set up a force play and pitch to Holliday, who he had struck out twice earlier in the game. St. Louis' cleanup hitter made Florida pay with a game-tying RBI single.

"I was having a hard time picking up Vazquez's fastball, but you try to make adjustments in every game," Holliday said. "I made a little adjustment and got a hit. It was nice to help the team."

Florida again chose to issue a free pass, this time intentionally walking Lance Berkman to load the bases. The Cardinals made Vazquez and the Marlins pay again as Miami native Jon Jay lined a two-run single to left to give St. Louis the lead. Vazquez allowed four runs on four hits over six innings.

"I felt good," Vazquez said. "I feel like the only run they should've scored was the run by Pujols, but that's the game. When you play bad baseball against a good team, that's what happens."

But the sudden shift in momentum did not deter the Marlins, as they answered in the bottom of the sixth off reliever Mitchell Boggs. Pinch-hitter Bryan Petersen smashed his first big league homer, a two-run shot, to tie the game at 4.

The Cardinals regained the lead in the seventh on a Ryan Theriot RBI single after Patterson reached on an error. Holliday picked up two more RBIs when he singled home Rafael Furcal and Theriot to give the Cardinals a three-run lead.

"Give them six runs -- and that's basically what we did -- and that's too good a club to give them extra outs each inning, and each inning we gave them an extra out, they scored three runs," Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. "You just don't let Pujols, Berkman and Holliday come to bat with men on base if you can help it. We seem to have a habit to make sure that someone's on."

This weekend's sweep was the Cardinals' first four-game sweep on the road since they took four from the Pirates in 2004. The sweep also gives the Cards some momentum as they head toward a series with the National League Central-leading Brewers on Tuesday.

"We're going to enjoy the moment and think about the Brewers on Tuesday," La Russa said. "Right now we're going to enjoy the fact that we made a heck of a comeback on the road trip and showed the character of this team." Comments