Holliday shakes off slump to deliver for Cardinals

ST. LOUIS -- Matt Holliday hit a drive over the wall in center in his first at-bat. He got lucky later, picking up an RBI single with a perfectly placed blooper.

For one night, at least, it seemed as if everything went right for St. Louis' new No. 2 hitter.

Holliday had three hits and three RBIs in the Cardinals' 6-4 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Friday, enjoying his first success since being elevated to the second spot in the order.

"It's always nice to help the team win," Holliday said. "This is a frustrating game and a humbling game, and so you just try to do the best you can.

"I think I've put out a career that eventually I'll start getting some hits."

Manager Tony La Russa is cautiously optimistic that the worst is over for Holliday. Especially batting in front of three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols.

"With Mr. Scary hitting behind him, he should get some pitches to hit," La Russa said. "It creates a lot of problems for the other side and that's what you try to do."

Skip Schumaker drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh as La Russa improved to 6-1 against his old team. Schumaker had three hits and scored three times.

Pujols, a major league-best .352 hitter in interleague play for his career, singled in a run and walked twice for St. Louis, which has won three of four overall. Chris Carpenter (8-1) gave up four runs in the second, matching his season worst, but none in his other six innings.

"The first couple of innings I didn't make very many good pitches," Carpenter said. "I battled all night long, did the best I could, and our guys picked me up."

Rajai Davis matched his career high with four hits and drove in a run for the Athletics, who have lost six of seven. Conor Jackson had two hits and two RBIs.

Oakland is a season-worst three games below .500.

"We've been playing decent, I like the way our lineup looks," manager Bob Geren said. "We've been playing decent, we really have."

Holliday hit a two-run homer against Vin Mazzaro in the first -- ending a 43 at-bat RBI drought -- but the Athletics jumped on Carpenter in the second. The big hit was a two-run double by Jackson, with Davis and Kurt Suzuki also driving in a run.

Holliday and Pujols hit RBI singles in consecutive at-bats in the fifth, tying it at 4. Holliday's hit barely cleared the infield, finding a hole between shortstop Cliff Pennington and a charging Jackson in left.

Holliday began the year as the cleanup hitter but was moved to second on Monday, his third spot in the lineup this season. He was 2 for 11 over his first three games and struck out on a ball in the dirt with the go-ahead run on third in the eighth inning on Wednesday.

Even after the big day, he is sixth on the team with 28 RBIs and is batting only .200 with runners in scoring position.

The Cardinals are counting on more nights like this one.

"That's Matt Holliday," Carpenter said. "That's who we know."

Carpenter allowed a season-high 10 hits but Oakland had no runners in scoring position in its last five innings against the right-hander. Carpenter has allowed double-digit hits in only 27 of 275 career starts.

Schumaker hit an RBI double and Ryan Ludwick added a run-scoring single against Brad Ziegler (2-4) in the seventh. Ziegler retired the 6-7-8 batters in order in the sixth.

"In the sixth, they hit it at guys," Ziegler said. "In the seventh, they hit it where we weren't."

Ryan Franklin finished for his 13th save in 14 chances.

The Cardinals and Athletics are meeting for the third time in interleague play, which has not diminished La Russa's enthusiasm for facing the team he managed from 1986-95. La Russa lives in northern California, about a half-hour drive from Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, and said he often watches Athletics games late at night.

"A lot of good memories," La Russa said. "I still live there, as opposed to living here."

Davis has four straight multihit games, going 11 for 19, and is batting .386 (17 for 45) during a 10-game hitting streak.

"I thought we did well against Carpenter considering how good a pitcher he is," Davis said.

Game notes
Cardinals SS Brendan Ryan, a big Lakers fan, hung an L.A. jersey with his No. 13 in his locker before the game. Batting ninth, Ryan doubled, walked and scored twice. ... Cardinals Hall of Famer Lou Brock was honored on his 71st birthday. ... Pennington doubled and singled his first two trips and is 8 for 17 the last five games.