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Holliday's resounding homer makes Pirates pay

Holliday's resounding homer makes Pirates pay

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Holliday's resounding homer makes Pirates pay

PITTSBURGH -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle insisted his club wasn't pitching around postseason force Carlos Beltran, and Matt Holliday would have been shocked if the Bucs were.

Still, it was unmistakable that in a game without many scoring opportunities on either side, Holliday had some of the best. In his third at-bat Monday, he cashed in.

Beltran, who already had six RBIs through three games of this National League Division Series, walked for the second time to lead off the sixth inning of Game 4 against Pirates starter Charlie Morton. Up came Holliday, who had just two hits in 13 plate appearances entering the day. He didn't miss Morton's 90-mph two-seamer that caught just enough of the plate before being driven over the center-field wall, breaking the scoreless tie and silencing a PNC Park-record sellout crowd.

NLDS

"Holliday barreled the one ball," Hurdle said. "[Morton] wasn't trying to pitch around Beltran. We had Beltran up three of the times today with nobody on. [Morton] just couldn't get the ball where he wanted to."

Truth is, you couldn't blame Hurdle or Morton much for walking Beltran if the situation did call for it. His Game 3 homer on Sunday night was the Cardinals' first at PNC Park this year, but now St. Louis has gone deep in back-to-back games in Pittsburgh.

"My first at-bat, I got some pitches to hit and [Morton] was trying to get me out," Beltran said. "In the second at-bat, they weren't close to home plate. The third at-bat, they weren't close either. Second and third at-bat, I went up there with the mentality of looking for a pitch to hit, but they were trying to be cautious. I feel like I'm swinging the bat well, and maybe they don't want me to beat them. ... I don't want to say they were trying to walk me. I think they were pitching me a little bit difficult."

"In a situation like that -- nobody on, no outs -- you don't want to just put him on," said Morton. "If you go back, you'll see I was having trouble throwing strikes to some people, not just Beltran. But in that at-bat, I don't want him to hurt me. He's done well against me, and has done well this series. So, yeah, you try to make the best pitch you can -- make him hit your pitch."

The two-run blast was the difference-maker in the 2-1 victory after rookie starter Michael Wacha surrendered only a solo homer to Pedro Alvarez in the eighth, breaking up his no-hitter.

"I would be surprised if they were pitching around [Beltran] with no outs," Holliday said. "We were looking for ways to get runners on base. I don't take that personally or anything. I'm glad Carlos was on base. If I can get on base, we've got something brewing."

For Holliday, it was his ninth career postseason home run and first since Oct. 5 of last year, against the Braves. The veteran outfielder, who was named the NL Championship Series MVP with Hurdle's Rockies in 2007 and hit .435 in the 2011 NLCS with the Cards, has 25 postseason RBIs in 46 games.

"I've always thought he's one of the more talented hitters in the game," general manager John Mozeliak said of Holliday. "To see how consistent he's performed over the years, we're [darn] grateful to have him. To see him do something like this today, it's special, and he's deserving."

Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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