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04/29/11 2:47 AM ET

Holliday off to scintillating start at plate

HOUSTON -- Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday is in some kind of groove. Holliday leads all Major Leaguers in hitting with a sparkling .433 average.

Andre Ethier of the Los Angeles Dodgers has received much attention for his 24-game hitting streak. But Ethier is only fourth in the National League in batting with a mere .380. Toronto's Jose Bautista leads the American League at a distant .360.

Holliday, batting cleanup, continued to pound away this week in Houston. He went 2-for-4 with three RBIs and a run scored in Thursday's 11-7 win over the Astros, improving to 7-for-12 and reaching base 10 times in 15 plate appearances during the series.

Has Holliday ever started this well?

"I don't know," he said. "Average-wise I had a pretty good start I think in '07. Somebody told me I had quite a few doubles in the first month."

Holliday, playing for the Colorado Rockies in 2007, led the NL in hitting with a .340 average and finished second to Philadelphia's Jimmy Rollins in the MVP voting. The Rockies reached the World Series that year, losing to Boston.

Don't forget that Holliday missed seven games this season because of an appendectomy.

He hit .353 in 63 games for the Cardinals in 2009 after being acquired in a trade in July with Oakland for three Minor Leaguers, including Brett Wallace, now first baseman for the Houston Astros. Holliday batted .312 last year for the Cardinals with 28 homers and 103 RBIs.

"I'm getting pitches to hit and making pretty good contact," he said, acting like a guy who is hitting .280 instead. "Just standard stuff, not chasing bad pitches. When you get a mistake, you're capitalizing on it."

Batting behind All-Star first baseman Albert Pujols and ahead of free agent Lance Berkman should help Holliday see better pitches. Berkman, batting behind Holliday in the No. 5 hole, is hitting almost as well with a .410 average, second in the Majors. He went 4-for-5 with two homers and five RBIs in Thursday's 11-7 win over the Astros.

"It's great," Holliday said of playing with Pujols and Berkman. "They're both tough outs and get on base a lot. It's a team game. We make it tough on pitchers when we're all swinging the bat well. It's fun to be part of a lineup like that."

Holliday didn't believe hitting between Pujols and Berkman provided him with more good pitches to hit.

"I try to discard who's hitting around me and have my own approach," he said. "Look for a ball over the plate that I can handle and put a pretty good swing on it.

"I don't think they try to pitch me [differently] no matter where you're batting. They have scouting reports they try to pitch to. I just try to look for a mistake."

Manager Tony La Russa likes having Holliday in the middle of his lineup.

"It's his ability to hit the ball to all parts of the park," La Russa said. "He works at it, makes adjustments. You check his career, he's had a lot of good years."

Miller getting appearances, not results

HOUSTON -- Cardinals left-hander Trever Miller came out of the bullpen in the eighth inning of Wednesday's 6-5 win over the Houston Astros. Miller walked Houston's Michael Bourn on six pitches and was gone, done for the night.

He did the exact same thing in the eighth inning of Thursday's 11-7 win over the Astros, walking the left-handed Brett Wallace.

Despite the fact that Miller leads the Cardinals relievers with 12 games, he has not retired a batter in his last five appearances.

"I've looked at the video," Miller said of his recent struggles. "My stuff is good. I think I'm putting too much on the pitches -- too much spin, trying to overthrow the fastball. It makes me look like I'm trying to be so fine when the ball goes to the corner, it goes flying off the plate."

Miller, 37, a former Astro, has walked three and struck out two in four innings this year, not good stats for a relief pitcher.

"I have to throw my breaking ball early in the count for strikes," he said. "I've been here before. I have to trust my stuff."

Being the only left-hander in the St. Louis bullpen has limited Miller's workload. He will often pitch to only one batter.

"He's got to use me in optimum situations," Miller said of manager Tony La Russa. "Is the game won in the seventh inning? If not, he's got to try to hold me back. Especially with our [unsettled] closer situation."

La Russa was not concerned about Miller's recent lack of success.

"He'll figure it out," La Russa said. "As long as he's healthy, he's going to be better more times than not. He's ready to pitch when the phone rings."

Miller does not enjoy being the lone lefty among the relievers.

"I'd rather have two lefties [in the bullpen]," he said. "Not for me, but for the team. It's an asset to the ballclub, to have two options to go to because there's more than one situation with all these great left-handed hitters in the big leagues. If they have to use me in the seventh, there's no [left-hander] for the eighth or ninth, or extra innings."

Miller will often be called on to pitch to just one left-handed hitter.

"I've grown to accept it," he said. "I wouldn't say it's my favorite thing to do. You can't get too high or too low pitching to one hitter no matter what the outcome.

"Yes, I've given up walks or hits the last four times I've been out there. That doesn't mean if I stayed out there I would have struck out the next three. I have to be on point when I go in the game, and that's what I'm searching for right now.

"I'll get this ball rolling and maybe take some pressure off the other guys in the bullpen."

Baby Birds

• Triple-A Memphis was off Wednesday before beginning a four-game series at home against Round Rock. Adam Ottavino, scheduled to start Thursday, is fourth in the Pacific Coast League in ERA among starting pitchers with a 2.08 mark. Teammate Brandon Dickson is second in ERA at 1.73.

• Double-A Springfield beat Northwest Arkansas, 4-3, on Wednesday night when Nick Derba's squeeze bunt with runners on first and third scored Tyler Henley with the winning run. Alex Castellanos went 3-for-4 for Springfield, including his sixth homer of the season.

• Class A Palm Beach edged Fort Myers, 4-3, on Luis Mateo's two-out home run in the bottom of the ninth. Jorge Rondon picked up the win in relief. On Thursday, Maikel Cleto allowed just one unearned run and Xavier Scruggs hit his first homer of the season to lead Palm Beach to a 5-2 win over Fort Myers.

• Class A Quad Cities split a doubleheader with Wisconsin, winning the first game, 7-5, and losing the second, 3-1. Andrew Moss won the opener with three innings of shutout relief. Nick Longmire and Jonathan Rodriguez homered for Quad Cities.

Gene Duffey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.