ST. LOUIS -- Trying to energize a scuffling offense, manager Tony La Russa made the one move on Monday that he had been reluctant to make all year. He flipped Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday in the Cardinals' batting order, dropping Pujols to fourth and moving Holliday up to third.
The move is based in part on Holliday's struggles with runners in scoring position; he was 8-for-47 in such situations entering Monday. It also increases the RBI chances for Pujols, since Holliday is having a solid offensive season otherwise. Moreover, La Russa believes that hitting in front of Pujols can be a tonic for just about any hitter.
"It's a couple things," La Russa said. "No. 1, Matt is feeling OK, but he's a major impact guy for us and we've got to get him going to where he's more like himself. Two, hitting him in front of Albert should be a plus, but hitting him second, I didn't really like that too much."
La Russa ruled out putting Holliday in the No. 2 spot, because it would lead to disruptions elsewhere. For one thing, Ryan Ludwick has thrived since being moved into the No. 2 hole. So instead, he flipped his two stars.
The last time Pujols started a game for the Cardinals batting somewhere other than third was May 30, 2003, when he hit fourth against the Pirates. According to the Cardinals, Pujols made 1,046 starts in a row without batting in any spot besides No. 3. However, La Russa reasons that before Holliday's arrival, he hadn't had another hitter who provided a legitimate alternative.
"We'll see," the manager said. "We've still got to make it work, but Matt's been a third-place hitter. He likes hitting third. We need to be more productive. So you identify, there's things we can work on, there's things we can improve, which we will improve. And there's other things like this that maybe there's a spark there for us. and getting Matt going would be a spark."
Holliday expressed little preference between the two positions, but he did acknowledge that he likes knowing he will come to bat in the first inning.
"But with Albert," he said, "you usually hit in the first inning [anyway]."
Pujols, meanwhile, had even less to say, though La Russa said the slugger expressed his willingness on Sunday to make the switch.
"I don't care where I hit," Pujols said. "I'm just glad to be in the lineup."