Steady Holliday is Cardinals' leaning post
Veteran outfielder doesn't let rough patches dictate his approach
ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday was smiling.
"Jackson," he said nodding toward his 11-year-old son, "hit his first two home runs over the fence today."
The old man didn't do badly, either.
Holliday didn't hit any home runs on Friday night, but then he has hit 252 over big league fences in the last 10-plus seasons.
What he did do was provide what little spark the Cardinals had, which was just enough, thanks to the strong armed efforts of Shelby Miller and four relievers to allow St. Louis to hang on for a 1-0 victory over the Pirates at Busch Stadium.
He the series opener with a .244 batting average and had only four hits in 23 at-bats over the final six games of the Cardinals' just-completed 11-game road trip. He hadn't had an extra-base hit in eight days, and had driven in only two runs.
Disappointed? You betcha.
"I don't care how long you play," he said, "[a slump] still bothers you."
Worried? No chance.
"You learn as you go along you are going to make outs," he said. "It's how you make outs. It's how you approach each at-bat. I felt I was close."
Too close for the comfort of the Pirates.
Holliday's good approach provided a good result against Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole, particularly in the first inning, when Holiday came up with one out and Matt Carpenter on second base. After fouling off a 1-2 pitch and taking ball two, Holliday lined a double into the right-field corner and the game's only run.
No surprise to Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, the manager in Colorado during Holliday's first five big league seasons.
"He always had the ability to hit the ball gap to gap," said Hurdle. "He's a good player -- a really good hitter. And he's a run-producer. He's very stubborn with his approach up there. If you stay out there, he's gonna shoot you to right. If you come in or try to mix things up on him ... "
Holliday added a single to right field in the third inning, and after drawing a five-pitch walk in the fifth, he finished his offensive night with an 0-2 single to left.
"We will continue to try to find a way," said Hurdle.
Easier said than done.
Holliday has, after all, established himself among the game's most productive hitters. He ranks eighth among active players with a .311 career average, 16th with 381 doubles, 17th with 978 RBIs and 20th with the aforementioned 252 home runs. No player with less service time ranks ahead of Holliday in any of the categories.
Holliday could be heating up. He's only had two three-hit games this season, and both have come in his last four games.
At 34, Holliday shows no signs of slowing down.
He has become wiser with age. He can deal with the failures that are such a major part of the game.
"They still bother you, but [as a veteran] you understand how the process works," he said. "It's a lot about how you make outs. It's more frustrating when you can't get a feel for what you are doing. When you are close, when you are making outs but having good at-bats, it is easier to deal with."
That's how Holliday was feeling in the final days of the Cardinals' road trip.
He had that three-hit game on Tuesday night, and wasn't about to let the 0-fers on Wednesday and Thursday put him in a funk.
"The last two days we played in New York was the worst weather I've ever played in, including some of those games in Colorado," said Holliday. "I felt I was seeing the ball well."
He proved it at the expense of the Pirates, thanks to veteran experience.
"A young guy has to figure out how he is going to get through a situation when everything is going wrong," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. "A veteran has the peace of mind of having worked his way through these situations before."
It allows for an inner calmness, and keeps a veteran like Holliday from feeling like he has to make up for a lineup in a funk. The Cardinals have scored only nine runs in their last six games.
"It's early in the season," said Holliday. "Hitters are still trying to get their timing right."
Holliday found his timing just in time for the Cardinals on Friday night.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.