07/25/09 12:46 AM ET
'Lucky' Holliday fine with four knocks
Whirlwind day begins with trade, ends with Cards win
By David Gurian-Peck / MLB.com
Yet somehow, every bloop, flair and grounder off his bat was perfectly placed, as he finished 4-for-5 with a stolen base, an RBI and a run scored. Julio Lugo -- the "other" St. Louis newcomer -- homered and tripled, and Joel Pineiro scattered four hits over six scoreless innings as the new-look Cardinals beat the Phillies, 8-1, in front of 45,166 at Citizens Bank Park.
"Yeah, I was lucky, but I'll take 'em. I'll take 'em all," Holliday said. "It may not be pretty, but it's effective."
Holliday singled in his first at-bat, promptly stole second and scored on Rick Ankiel's base hit. In the Cardinals' four-run sixth, Holliday hit an opposite-field, run-scoring flair. In the seventh, he launched a double to right-center that nearly left the yard, and in the ninth he legged out an infield single.
"He has a lot of ability, but the one thing -- I've never seen him throw an at-bat away," manager Tony La Russa said. "He's a hungry hitter, and he showed that today."
Mark DeRosa, acquired from the Indians in June, mused at his new teammate's success.
"It took me three weeks to get a hit," said DeRosa, who was hitless in his first 15 at-bats with St. Louis. "This guy comes in and jams four balls."
The Cardinals recognized the potency of their retooled lineup. Two of their top four hitters were not on the team on Wednesday; three of them were elsewhere last month.
In other words, Albert Pujols, who has a Majors-leading 34 intentional walks, has much more of a supporting cast, and the team has far more continuity from top to bottom.
"It changes the complexion of our lineup," DeRosa said. "Guys feel they can pass the baton. They don't need to be a hero."
That's exactly what they did on Friday: Pass the baton, without heroics. St. Louis' deeper, longer lineup managed a big inning without big hits, stringing together five consecutive singles off young Philadelphia lefty J.A. Happ, who had not lost since 2007.
Ankiel, who finished the evening with three hits and three RBIs, capped off the rally with an RBI double to left, the only semi-hard-hit ball of the inning. Ironically, it was the veteran shortstop Lugo -- who homered once last season, and once in 37 games with Boston this year -- who provided the only true pop.
"Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good," La Russa said. "Happ deserves better than the runs that were scored."
Pineiro, however, got exactly what he deserved: his eighth straight quality start and third consecutive win.
Since June 18, Pineiro has allowed just two walks and eight runs over 51 2/3 innings, good for an outstanding 1.39 ERA.
He never faced a legitimate jam against the Phillies -- who lead the National League in runs, homers and total bases and who play in a hitter-friendly ballpark -- and lowered his ERA to 2.95.
Not even a 48-minute rain delay in the top of the second bothered Pineiro, who remained loose by throwing in the batting cage underneath the field. His sinker was sharp, as he notched 10 groundouts -- 11 counting Happ's sacrifice bunt. Philadelphia never had multiple runners on base against him.
"Now I would say it's up to our pitching," Pineiro said. "The front office did what they needed to do to get hitters, now our pitching's gotta step up and keep on doing what we've been doing."
Pineiro woke up to multiple text messages from friends, asking if he had heard the exciting news.
Holliday had a far less leisurely afternoon. First, he had poor cell phone reception in New York, making it difficult to get in touch with A's general manager Billy Beane. Then he had the train ride to Citizens Bank Park, where he arrived around 5 p.m. ET. Though he traveled with his family, he did not even have time to check into his hotel. He had a team meeting and press conference to attend. Shortly thereafter, he was on second base, swiping his first bag with his new team.
"That's part of my game," said Holliday, who had 28 steals for Colorado last season. "I kind of pride myself on playing good baseball."
Only when it was all over could he finally take a breather and absorb the day's events.
"I feel like it's a blessing to be here," Holliday said.
David Gurian-Peck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.