ST. LOUIS – Matt Holliday is keeping quiet about his recent hitting surge.
However, his St. Louis teammates are more than happy to praise him after Holliday hit the go-ahead RBI single in the seventh inning Monday to rally the Cardinals to a 5-4 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
St. Louis moved into sole possession of first place in the NL Central for the first time this season with its third straight win. The Cardinals are one game ahead of Milwaukee, which lost to the Chicago Cubs. Pittsburgh dropped three games back.
Kolten Wong started the three-run rally in the seventh with a two-run, pinch-hit homer to tie the game 4-all.
Holliday, who is 7 for 11 with three homers and 12 RBI in his last three games, then followed with a single to left to bring in Jon Jay with the winning run.
“I’m OK with him going off all month long,” St. Louis starting pitcher Lance Lynn said. “This (three) game stretch, I’d like for it to be like to a 28- to 45-game stretch. If he can keep doing what he’s doing, that’s a big boost.”
Holliday has driven in three runs or more in each of his last three games, the first St. Louis player to do so since Scott Rolen from Aug. 11-13, 2002.
“He loves to come up with the big hit and he got it again,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said.
Pittsburgh starter Gerrit Cole (7-5), who gave up a two-run double to Holliday in third, was also impressed.
“The guy is just unbelievable,” Cole said. “He’s probably the strongest human being in the world. He just continues to get it done when he needs to get it done.”
Holliday drove in the game-winning run with a two-run single in the eighth inning of a 9-6 win over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday. He also had two homers in the second game of a day-night doubleheader on Saturday.
“He’s been a good player for a long time,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “That’s just what he does.”
Jay followed Wong’s homer with a triple to set up Holliday’s team-leading 81st RBI of the season.
Seth Maness (6-3) picked up the win in relief. Trevor Rosenthal got the last three outs for his 41st save in 46 opportunities.
Lynn gave up three runs and eight hits in six innings.
Cole allowed all five runs and eight hits over 6 innings.
Andrew McCutchen homered for the Pirates off Kevin Siegrist in the seventh to push the lead to 4-2. The 454-foot shot was the second-longest by a visiting player in the history of the current Busch Stadium, which opened in 2006.
Pittsburgh jumped out to a 3-0 lead with two runs in the first and one in the second. Neil Walker hit two-run double on the 10th pitch of the game to bring in Josh Harrison and McCutchen.
Andrew Lambo added an RBI double in the second.
“It’s a game we should have won, that’s how I look at it,” McCutchen said. “We can’t let ones like this get away.”
The Cardinals, who were three games back on Aug. 17, have finally reached the top spot.
“No parades,” Matheny said. “But we’re going to keep the throttle down.”
Pirates: INF Pedro Alvarez missed his fifth successive game with a left foot sprain suffered Aug. 26. He is listed as day-to-day.
Cardinals: RHP Michael Wacha threw two scoreless innings in a rehab appearance for Double-A Springfield on Sunday. He allowed one hit and threw strikes on 24 of 34 pitches. He is hoping to re-join the starting rotation in by mid-September.
Pirates: LHP Jeff Locke (6-3, 3.51) will start the second game of the three-game series today. He has gone 4-0 in his last five starts.
Cardinals: RHP Adam Wainwright (15-9, 2.59) will be making his fifth start against the Pirates this season. He is 1-2 with a 1.61 ERA in his four previous starts.
KINGS OF SEPTEMBER
The Cardinals are a major-league best 53-28 in September since 2011. They went 19-8 last September.