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STL@COL: Holliday crushes a three-run shot to left

DENVER -- Perhaps the numbers have climbed quietly, muted by the fact that Matt Holliday's season start was defined more by hard-hit outs than impact results.

But after keying the Cardinals' 9-6 win over the Rockies on Wednesday with the 17th multi-homer game of his career, Holliday perhaps can emerge from his own shadow even more.

As good as Carlos Beltran has been for the Cardinals this season, Holliday has been better. And good enough, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said, that Holliday -- should he continue on this pace -- is having a season as good as anyone in the National League.

"Absolutely," said Matheny, when asked if Holliday's year has been worthy of MVP consideration. "I don't think it's too early. He's got to be in the talk."

With a three-hit night, the left fielder bumped his season average up to .325. Wednesday's two home runs put him at 21 on the season. His five-RBI performance ties him with Beltran as the National League's leader. Only three players in the NL have more hits.

"He's carried us. Bottom line," third baseman David Freese said. "It's tough to ask, but that's what you want out of elite players. He's a guy that has no problem taking the load when he's hot. It starts with his work ethic, on and off the field. It's incredible. Nobody works harder. Then you throw him on the field and he does what he does and he's a complete player."

Holliday's first multi-homer game of the season, which happened in front of 29,547 at Coors Field, came on a night when third-place St. Louis needed a victory in order to maintain its position in the NL Central standings.

Holliday's second blast pulled the Cardinals back in front after Colorado grabbed a sixth-inning lead with their own deluge of extra-base hits.

A two-run home run by Holliday put St. Louis ahead in the first. He then crushed a 1-0 offering from reliever Matt Belisle 452 feet into the stands in left-center to flip a two-run deficit into a one-run advantage in the seventh. The home run was Holliday's third in the span of five at-bats and his 90th in 1,383 career at-bats at Coors Field.

"It's a good place to hit," said Holliday, who began his career with the Rockies. "It's got big gaps. I see the ball really well here. I have a lot of fond memories here, and I think when you've had success in places you tend to have confidence going back."

Since being traded away by the Rockies in 2008, Holliday has batted .388 against his former club. He has nine RBIs and five hits against them in this series. In 24 at-bats against the Rockies this year, Holliday has collected 13 hits.

"That's obviously the big blow of the game," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said of Holliday's second blast. "Big man hit the big blow. That's it."

To highlight Holliday's success only in this setting, though, would be to miss his season. After hitting .215 in April, he has hit .360. Seventeen of his homers and 62 of his RBIs have come in that 79-game span.

His numbers are even more impressive since he made an adjustment with his hands in June.

"I feel like I've had better at-bats and been more consistent since that adjustment," Holliday said. "I never was confident 100 percent with my mechanics early. For a while now, I've felt very good coming to the field about where my swing is at."

Holliday's clutch hitting, combined with a solid first impression made by the team's newest addition, turned the seventh from an inning that has plagued the Cardinals for much of the year to the one that turned this game in the team's favor. After Holliday provided the lead, right-hander Edward Mujica passed it along.

Mujica, who the Cardinals acquired from the Marlins on Tuesday, needed only 10 pitches to retire the side in the seventh.

"Brief is good," Matheny said of the outing. "We like it that way."

After an 87-minute rain delay, the Cardinals padded their lead with three runs in the final two innings. Mitchell Boggs and Marc Rzepczynski worked an inning apiece in relief.

Jake Westbrook, long ago drafted by the Rockies, earned the victory, even though his start turned rocky over a seven-batter sequence in the sixth.

After skirting around trouble early, Westbrook watched a 3-1 Cardinals lead evaporate before he recorded a sixth-inning out. The Rockies opened the inning with four consecutive extra-base hits to plate three runs.

"It was more of a case of leaving balls in the middle of the plate and making mistakes," Westbrook said. "You definitely don't want to see that many in a row, especially with a lead."

A two-out hit by Eric Young extended Colorado's lead further, though a coy play by Freese at third base ended the inning without further damage.

Young, reading the signal from his third-base coach, slowed as he approached third base standing up after drilling a ball off the wall in right-center. What he didn't realize was that the Cardinals were making a relay play behind him. Freese took the throw and swiped Young to end the inning.

"I don't think I've ever accomplished a deke like that before, in the big leagues at least," Freese said. "It looked like a good opportunity. The best part about it was that it ended the inning. It stopped the rally."

Westbrook, the NL's leader in ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio before the night, had a tough time keeping balls on the ground in his 21st start of the year. But he was resilient enough to finish six innings for the 10th straight time.

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