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Sept. 01--ST. LOUIS -- Overcoming large deficits hasn't been the St. Louis Cardinals' forte this season.
But the Cardinals pulled one out of the hat Sunday afternoon, chipping away at a 5-0 disadvantage and posting a 9-6 victory over the Chicago Cubs before 45,148 at Busch Stadium.
Matt Holliday's bases-loaded, two-out, two-run single against Carlos Villanueva broke a 6-6 tie in the eighth inning, and the Cardinals tacked on one more to record just their fourth win this season after trailing by four or more runs.
Holliday's hit, which followed an up-and-in fastball from Villanueva, highlighted a 3-for-4, four-RBI performance that included a home run in the fourth that started the comeback.
Holliday was 5-for-7 with three homers and nine RBIs in the final two games of the series, victories by the Cardinals (73-63) that enabled them to salvage a split and move into a first-place tie in the NL Central with the Milwaukee Brewers.
"You have no choice but to keep playing," Holliday said. "You just keep playing and try to chip away. Lack (John Lackey) gave us some zeroes and allowed us to get back in the game. That's the strategy. You've got to keep pushing. You don't give up. We've got a bunch of fighters, a bunch of guys that grind out at-bats."
Holliday, enduring the most difficult season of a 11-year career, lifted his average to .267 with 32 doubles, 16 home runs and 78 RBIs in 132 games. From the Cardinals' standpoint, there's no better time for the veteran left fielder to find his groove.
"I love when guys do what they have always done when people seem to forget year after year," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Holliday. "He is an elite player, and he continues to figure out ways to get it done no matter what. It was a big day. We needed that again from him. He's leading us."
Reliever Pat Neshek (7-1) pitched a scoreless eighth for the victory, working out of a two-on, two-out jam by getting Javier Baez on a weak fly to right. Trevor Rosenthal worked the ninth for his 40th save, becoming the fifth Cardinals closer to reach that mark.
The game was knotted at 6 when Pete Kozma, recalled from Class AAA Memphis on Sunday, doubled to left-center against Villanueva. Kozma replaced second baseman Kolten Wong in the top of the inning when Wong injured himself attempting to make a catch.
Daniel Descalso reached on a bunt single, with Kozma reaching third. Matt Adams struck out before Matt Carpenter was intentionally walked to load the bases.
Randal Grichuk struck out swinging, and after falling behind 0-2, Holliday narrowly eluded Villanueva's brushback. Holliday followed with his hit that caromed off the rubber and rolled into short left field, allowing Kozma and Descalso to score.
Jhonny Peralta added insurance with an RBI single to left that plated Carpenter.
"I feel good," Holliday said. "I'm hitting the ball hard. That's all I can do --try to hit the ball hard. Sometimes they're caught, sometimes they're not. We needed this win. We couldn't afford to lose three out of four. It was good to get a win, a comeback win, and we go on to tomorrow."
John Lackey spotted the Cubs their big lead. Lackey's throwing error on pitcher Travis Wood's bunt scored Chris Valaika, who had walked, to put Chicago ahead 1-0. Chris Coghlan followed with a two-run single to make it 3-0.
Lackey induced a 6-4-3 double play from Baez, but Starlin Castro singled ahead of Luis Valbuena's two-run homer.
"I put myself in that situation," Lackey said. "I made a bad throw in that inning and I needed to make some better pitches. But you can't do much about it once it's over. You've got to keep grinding and try to give the guys as good a chance as you can after that."
Holliday's homer to right-center against Wood made it 5-1 in the fourth, and Wong hit his 10th of the season in the fifth to make it 5-2. RBI doubles by Carpenter and Holliday followed to make it 5-4. Carpenter's hit went off the glove of center fielder Arismendy Alcantara and could have been ruled an error.
Alcantara homered to left-center against Randy Choate in the seventh, putting the Cubs ahead 6-4. But Peralta and Yadier Molina had RBI singles in the seventh against Pedro Strop to make it 6-6. Holliday had been hit by a pitch to get the inning to Peralta.
"He's been hit a bunch of times," Matheny said of Holliday, whose 15 hit by pitches are second on the team to Jon Jay's 16. "I'm sure he doesn't feel perfect. He's been hit too many times. ... He leads by going back out there all the time and playing the way that he plays. Matt has been a warrior in that department."
Lackey lasted 6 1/3 innings, allowing five runs (two earned) on nine hits. He walked one and struck out six, settling into a rhythm in the third through sixth innings to keep St. Louis in contention.
"Lack did a great job keeping the game right there," said Carpenter, who was on bases seven times and scored six runs in the last two games of the series. "We were able to keep fighting back and chipping away and win a big game."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidMWilhelm.
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