Holliday's hot stick sparking rest of Cards

Hot Holliday sparking rest of Cards

HOUSTON -- It took a month and a half, but the Cardinals finally found out that it is physically possible for Matt Holliday to slump.

A little.

Holliday recently went into his first dip of any kind since joining the Cardinals, going 6-for-30 over a brief stretch last week. Then he emerged from it in the most dramatic way possible, with a walk-off home run against the Cubs on Friday night. Now Holliday seems to be back in the groove, going 6-for-14 with three walks since then.

Pulse
Cardinals at a glance
2009 record: 91-71
2008 record: 86-76
NL Central champs

WHO ARE THESE GUYS?
McClellan: Hometown boy
Cards: Shaking off walk-off
Ludwick: Dream fulfilled
Hawksworth: On way up
Ryan: Playing it cool
Pujols: Ready for fun stuff
Wainwright: Proud, durable
Holliday: Kids' play
Pujols: Triple Crown?
La Russa: 14th postseason
Carpenter: Heart of staff
Pujols: Eschewing rest
Holliday: A perfect fit
Carpenter: Ready to go
La Russa: Getting proactive
Wainwright: Apt pupil
Pujols: His place in history?
Pujols: The evolution
Holliday: Offensive spark
La Russa: Controls fate
Pujols: MVP No. 3?
Wainwright: Mr. Consistent
La Russa: Winning cures all
Carpenter: A go Game 1
Holliday: Big impact
Wainwright: Cy in cards?

The Cardinals certainly never worried about Holliday, who has helped pace their offense since his arrival in late July. And Holliday didn't really pay it much mind, either.

"We faced some good pitching the last week, but I've been coming off the ball a little bit," he said after hitting the homer. "But I felt like I've had some good at-bats where I haven't gotten any results, and that's part of the game."

Now he's having good at-bats and getting results. And it seems possible that several Cardinals may be getting it going at the same time, something the club hasn't seen in quite a while. Leadoff man Skip Schumaker and MVP favorite Albert Pujols have both been torrid recently. Mark DeRosa seems to have found something in the past few days. And now Holliday, after an ever-so-slight pause, is back to doing what he's been doing all along.

Asked to quantify or explain Holliday's impact on his team's lineup, manager Tony La Russa doesn't get too fancy.

"I look at the won-lost record," La Russa said. "I think he's definitely had an effect on making us deeper and better. Everybody is in a better position to succeed. Pitchers included. [We're] not asking them to do something that's unfair. The only guy we do that to routinely is Albert."

Now Holliday is on the brink of his second postseason appearance, as the Cards' magic number has dropped to two. The club is playing better lately, winning four out of five, than it was a week ago. Life is good for Holliday, and his teammates. That irritating little slump is gone.

"I can't believe that people expect us to win four out of [every] five games for the entire last two months," Holliday said. "You figure at some point you're going to go through a little period where [things don't go as well]. We lost some one-run games that could have gone our way that for a month and a half, were going our way. That's just part of the game. It's not that we were playing terrible. We weren't able to come up with the hits and the timely hitting and were giving up a run here or there that we weren't giving up before. That's how you lose."

And now, they're winning again.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.