Cards eye division lead in opener with Pirates

( - After putting together an impressive weekend, Matt Holliday will try to lead the St. Louis Cardinals into first place in the National League Central on Monday afternoon in the opener of a three-game set with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Cardinals lost the first two of their four-game series with the Chicago Cubs before picking up a pair of wins to close out the set. Holliday keyed the two wins by going 5-for-7 with three homers and nine RBI.

Holliday went deep twice in Saturday's 13-2 rout, then homered and smacked a go-ahead, two-run single in the eighth inning of Sunday's 9-6 win.

"He's an elite player and he continues to figure out ways to get it done," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said about Holliday. "We needed that again from him. He's leading us."

With Milwaukee on a five-game losing streak, the Cardinals moved into a tie with the Brewers for first place in the NL Central. St. Louis will visit Milwaukee for a four-game set that begins on Thursday.

Pittsburgh is two games back of the top spot, having a four-game winning streak halted with Sunday's 3-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. The Pirates jumped out to a two-run lead after two on solo homers by Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer, but the Reds tied the contest on a two-run homer in the fifth by Chris Heisey, who then hit a go-ahead solo blast in the ninth.

"We threw (142) pitches on the day and two of them ended up costing us," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.

Pittsburgh will begin a 10-game road trip today, but has lost nine of its last 13 as the guest.

The Pirates won two of three over the visiting Cardinals from Aug. 25-27, evening the season series at eight games apiece. Pittsburgh's Gerrit Cole and Lance Lynn of St. Louis squared off on Tuesday and will rematch today.

Both pitched well in no-decisions, with Cole taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning. He ended up getting charged with two runs on three hits and a walk in six-plus frames of work.

"I thought he pitched a great ball game," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Cole. "Complete control."

Cole is 7-4 with a 3.65 earned run average on the year and makes his third start since returning from a strained right lat muscle. The righty is 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in three matchups with the Cardinals.

Holliday is 5-for-9 versus Cole with a double and an RBI, but has yet to take him deep.

Lynn, meanwhile, had won three starts in a row before Tuesday's no-decision as he was charged with two runs on six hits and three walks over six innings. It marked the ninth time in his last 10 starts he has allowed two earned runs or fewer, with the righty 6-2 with a 1.85 ERA over that span.

Lynn is 14-8 on the year with a 2.79 ERA and 5-3 with a 4.73 ERA in 14 games (12 starts) against the Pirates.