Holliday gets warm welcome at Busch

Holliday gets warm welcome at Busch

ST. LOUIS -- New Cardinals slugger Matt Holliday knew that he probably would be welcomed warmly by the fans when he made his home debut on Monday night at Busch Stadium against the Dodgers.

But after standing ovations both when he took the field in left and again when he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the first inning, even the proclaimed "best fans in baseball" may have outdone themselves.

"That exceeded [his expectations]," Holliday admitted.

After a lengthy ovation when he was introduced with a runner at first and two outs in the first, Holliday promptly lined a double off the center-field wall to put the Cardinals ahead, 1-0.

According to data going back to 1954, he became the first Cardinals player to double in each of his first four games with the club.

"It worked out really well," said Holliday, who admitted that he had butterflies before stepping to the plate. "Obviously, you want to get a hit and hit a ball hard and to get a double and get us a run. It was pretty exciting."

Holliday put on an impressive round of batting practice after meeting with the media on Monday afternoon, hitting several long home runs, including one that bounced on the concourse, out of the stadium and onto Clark Street beyond left field.

He then went out and went 1-for-3 with the RBI double, a walk and a run scored. It was a fitting debut for a guy with a career .367 batting average in St. Louis as a visiting player.

"I was just excited," Holliday said. "I've always enjoyed playing here and to get a chance to put on a Cardinals uniform, I was excited about it."

Holliday grounded out in the third before walking in the fifth. He grounded to third in the seventh but reached base on an error by Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake. He came around to score as part of a four-run Cardinals seventh that propelled them to a 6-1 win in front of the home crowd.

His four-game extra-base-hit streak to start his Cardinals career is the longest since Will Clark had extra-base hits in his first five games with St. Louis in 2000.

"That's a [heck] of a player that's in our lineup now and our fans know it," manager Tony La Russa said. "I don't know if he's low-key about that kind of stuff or whatever, but I guarantee you he noticed it. I also noticed that first ball he hit -- what a laser. A 400-foot line drive. That's hard to do."

Holliday hit .240 and had one home run and 12 RBIs in the first month of the season but has since turned it on. After hitting just six doubles combined in April and May, Holliday has 21 in June and July. He is hitting .380 in July with a .633 slugging percentage and a 1.080 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).

"My swing path is better, my timing is better, I think my confidence is much better," Holliday said. "I think the combination of those three things, I feel like myself. I was having some timing issues and my swing path kind of got out of whack a little bit, but through some tape study and some hard work, I think I have it back where I want it."

The Cardinals finally got their much-needed protection for Albert Pujols when they acquired Holliday on Friday. They also got a hitter who is energized by winning baseball. He is hitting .376 with 39 RBIs in his teams' wins this year and just .242 with 19 RBIs when they lose.

And after hitting .286 with 11 home runs and 54 RBIs for Oakland, Holliday is ready to jump into another pennant race like the one he experienced with Colorado in 2007.

"The Cardinals are very good every year," Holliday said. "They are always right in the middle of winning their division and making it to the playoffs and being a World Series-caliber team. Obviously, there is talent here and I just kind of want to fit in and do my part."

He seems to be doing just that so far.

B.J. Rains is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.