All season, the St. Louis Cardinals' offense has been resourceful and relentless. It was that way again Tuesday night, as St. Louis pounded Colorado starter Juan Nicasio and cruised to an 11-4 win over the Rockies.
The victory enabled the Cardinals to take over first place in the National League Central. They had been tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who lost 5-2 at home to the San Diego Padres for the second straight night.
"You like gaining a game," said Matt Holliday, who went 4-for-4 with a two-run homer, three RBIs and two runs. "There's still a lot of games left. We got to keep winning games, make it hard on them."
Holliday, who began his career with the Rockies, is hitting .415 with seven home runs at Coors Field since joining the Cardinals in July 2009.
A six-run third inning was the key to St. Louis jumping out to a 10-0 lead.
Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina and Daniel Descalso each had two RBIs, and the Cardinals got at least two hits from seven players in their 18-hit attack. They scored six of their first 10 runs with two outs.
Eight of the runs came against Nicasio, whom the Cardinals drove from the game after 2 2/3 innings in his second-shortest start of the season. The Cardinals went 6-for-10 against him with runners in scoring position. They entered the game leading the majors with a .329 average in those situations.
"It speaks to the type of at-bats our hitters go up there and have with runners in scoring position," Descalso said. "Everybody's up there battling pitch to pitch and just trying to get it to the next guy. Get on base and get the next guy up there, knowing that the next guy will have a good at-bat, too. When we put together those good at-bats in bunches, that's when we have those big innings."
Joe Kelly, making his Coors Field debut, held the Rockies scoreless on three singles for five innings. He lowered his ERA to 2.74 overall, 2.14 in 14 starts.
Kelly (9-4) has had soreness in his upper right calf and knee and said he felt a little tighter than usual when he broke to cover first base and stopped on a ground ball that Corey Dickerson hit to second base for the second out in the fifth. Kelly stayed in the game to retire one more batter to finish the inning, qualifying for the victory. The Cardinals led by 10 runs at the time.
"I wanted to keep pitching, but we're so close to the end and the playoffs," Kelly said. "It's something you don't want to risk. If it was 0-0, it's still something you don't want to risk."
The Rockies tallied four runs in the seventh. Pinch hitter Charlie Culberson singled home the first run, and a second scored on right fielder Shane Robinson's error on the hit. DJ LeMahieu and Michael Cuddyer also had run-scoring singles.
Nicasio (8-8) gave up eight hits and three walks, and he needed 70 pitches to get eight outs.
"He's grinding to the finish line here," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said of Nicasio, who is 2-4 with a 6.16 ERA in his past 10 starts, seven of which the Rockies have lost. "He has been better at staying away from those big innings. He struggled with that tonight."
NOTES: Rockies C Wilin Rosario left the game in the second with right calf soreness and is listed day-to-day. A cramp in the same calf forced Rosario to leave Monday's game in the eighth inning. ... Cuddyer went 2-for-3 to raise his average to .331, giving him a four-point lead over Atlanta's Chris Johnson in the National League batting race. ... Rockies LHP Jorge De La Rosa will throw a bullpen session Wednesday. If it goes well, he will start Saturday against Arizona. He missed his turn Monday against St. Louis due to a bone bruise on his left thumb. ... Colorado 3B Nolan Arenado, who aggravated his bruised right thumb Monday and left the game in the second inning, won't start for a few days but could be available to play defense. ... Rockies CF Dexter Fowler is a few days away from starting for the first time since Sept. 6. He has been sidelined with a twisted left knee, but he has appeared off the bench each of the past two days. ... Carpenter is on pace for 201 hits. The last St. Louis player to have 200 hits in a season was Albert Pujols, who had 212 in 2003.