Cardinals make the most out of Holliday's moonshot against the Rays
JUN 10, 2014 11:42p ET
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Matt Holliday hasn't hit many homers lately, but when he has, they have been no-doubters.
The one he slugged Tuesday night was pretty important, too. As in, Cardinals 1, Rays 0.
Holliday produced the game's only run in the fifth inning when, with two strikes and two outs in the sixth, he connected with a splitter that didn't split that he launched well over the center-field fence at Tropicana Field.
The homer was just Holliday's second since April 29, a span covering 165 plate appearances. And like the one he hit against the Yankees on the Cardinals' previous homestand, this one seemed to travel as far up as it did out.
"It's amazing how the ball jumps off his bat," manager Mike Matheny said. "He's strong."
He also was swinging with a stiff back that made him a late scratch two days ago and left his status against the Rays up in the air until the Cardinals took batting practice. A couple of Holliday's swings during the game even made Matheny look at him twice to make sure he was OK.
"But the one run that we needed, his back was OK on that one," Matheny said. "Hopefully, he's all right for carrying us today."
"It was a little stiff," Holliday said. "Not prohibitive."
Holliday had fouled two fastballs straight back before the homer, an indication that his timing is coming. Holliday entered with a .368 slugging percentage, the lowest in the NL among three-hole hitters. It's a stat that he is as aware of as anyone.
"I'm liking his bat speed," Matheny said. "He's real close, I think, to going on a tear. It's always a dangerous thing going out there focusing on trying to hit the long ball, but if the bat speed is right and you're staying back and not cheating to try and make it happen, it's going to happen naturally. He's too strong for it not to."
Holliday was taking more of a wait-and-see attitude.
"It felt good tonight, so we'll see tomorrow," he said.
-- Adam Wainwright. Strengthening his bid to start the All-Star Game for the first time, he turned in his seventh scoreless outing in 14 starts. In each of the seven, he has worked at least seven innings. Wainwright wasn't dominant against a Rays attack that has gone three games without scoring, allowing seven hits and striking out only two. Still, he was plenty effective enough to win his ninth game and become the majors' first pitcher to pass the 100-innings mark for the season. He also led the way in the Cardinals' third straight shutout, the first time they have managed such a feat on the road since 1963.
-- Sam Freeman. The lefty continues to be given high-leverage situations and he continues to deliver. Freeman came in with two on and no outs in the eighth and struck out lefty James Loney with a 96-mph heater and retired Ben Zobrist on a hard liner to left. Freeman has worked eight innings without giving up a run.
"He's improved, that's all there is to it," Matheny said. "He's got good stuff, he's got a live arm. It's just a matter of having a real good idea how to use it against the opposition and making pitches when it counts."
-- Jake Odorizzi. He's a local guy, so let's include him in 3 Up. Odorizzi, a right-hander from Highland, Ill., turned in the best start of his career for the Rays. He went seven innings for the first time and allowed only three hits. The mistake to Holliday, however, was enough to cost him and the Rays. "It was the right pitch; just left it up," he said.
-- Pat Neshek. The team's most reliable reliever for the season endured a rare off outing when he entered in the eighth and didn't retire either of the batters he faced, giving up a double to rookie Kevin Keirmaier and hitting Evan Longoria in the elbow guard. He barely grazed Longoria, but the hit by Keirmaier was a one-hop smash that bounced off first baseman Allen Craig's leg and into the stands for a ground-rule double.
-- Craig's luck. Besides taking a shot off his left leg, Craig went 0 for 4 -- but it was a loud 0 for 4. He flew out to deep right, deep left and to the warning track in center in his first three at-bats.
-- Offense. Odorizzi didn't allow a Cardinal to reach until two were out in the fourth, when he walked Holliday. The Cardinals managed only three hits all night, equaling their season low for the fourth time. It was the first time they won when having that few hits. Other than Holliday's homer, the Cardinals had only two runners reach as far as second base.