ST. LOUIS -- It took a lot longer than most people figured it would, but last year's National League champion has finally taken sole possession of first place in the Central Division.
Left fielder Matt Holliday continued his torrid stretch of hitting with a tie-breaking RBI single in the bottom of the seventh Monday as the St. Louis Cardinals rallied for a 5-4 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium.
With Milwaukee losing 4-2 at the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis (74-63) established a one-game lead over the Brewers, while dropping the Pirates (71-66) three games off the pace.
It was the Cardinals' second straight comeback from an early deficit. In Sunday's 9-6 victory over the Cubs, the Cardinals trailed 5-0 after the top of the second.
"No parades," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said when asked about owning the top spot. "But we're happy. I'm running out of ways to describe being down by five, being down by three runs against a good team and a good pitcher, and watching how we're doing it. We're going to keep the throttle down."
Holliday's throttle has been stuck in overdrive since the nightcap of Saturday's doubleheader against the Cubs. Dating back to the fifth inning of that game, when he jacked a three-run homer, Holliday has knocked in 12 runs in the last 20 innings.
That included his grounder between third and short off reliever John Axford that drove in center fielder Jon Jay for St. Louis' first lead of the day.
In the last three games, Holliday is 7-for-11 with three homers and 12 RBIs, giving him 81 for the season. That included a rocket two-run double off starter Gerrit Cole in the third that pulled the Cardinals within 3-2.
"I guess it wasn't high enough or low enough because he put a good swing on it," Cole said of Holliday. "He's probably the strongest human in the world. You jam him and he puts it on the warning track in right-center. You put him on his front foot and he about takes (shortstop Jordy) Mercer's glove off.
"He's just unbelievable."
Cole (7-5) took a 4-2 lead to the seventh after center fielder Andrew McCutchen unloaded a 454-foot homer to the third deck in left as the leadoff man in Pittsburgh's half of the inning.
But St. Louis equalized with one swing from pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. He jumped on a meaty 1-2 fastball from Cole, lining it over the fence in right-center with second baseman Pete Kozma aboard for his 11th homer.
Wong, who didn't start at second due to a neck injury, didn't take batting practice, but took heat packs and moved around constantly in the dugout to stay loose.
"I just had to push that aside and try to help this team somehow," he said. "I was kind of surprised that I hit the ball because Gerrit is such a good pitcher."
Jay then sliced a triple down the left-field line, ending Cole's day after 6 1/3 innings, eight hits, and five runs with three walks and four strikeouts. Axford walked right fielder Oscar Taveras and fell behind 3-1 before Holliday collected his major-league-leading 21st game-winning RBI of the year.
Reliever Seth Maness (6-3) got the last two outs of the seventh for the win, and closer Trevor Rosenthal worked around a two-out error in the ninth for his 41st save.
The Pirates jumped out to a 3-0 lead against Lance Lynn. Second baseman Neil Walker doubled home two runs in the first, and right fielder Anthony Lambo delivered an RBI double in the second.
Lynn steadied after the shaky start, pitching six innings and allowing eight hits. He gave up three runs, walked three and fanned three.
Holliday didn't stick around to discuss the continuation of his tear, but his teammates certainly didn't mind talking about him.
"I hope he keeps doing it all month long," Lynn said.
NOTES: St. Louis activated 2B Mark Ellis (left oblique) from the 15-day disabled list Monday. Ellis, who was injured in mid-August during infield practice, is hitting .192 with 12 RBIs in 167 at-bats. ... Pittsburgh called up RHPs Gerrit Cole and Stolmy Pimentel, as well as C Tony Sanchez, from Triple-A Indianapolis. ... Cardinals RHP Michael Wacha threw 34 pitches in a rehab game Sunday night for Double-A Springfield at Tulsa. He allowed a hit and a walk with a strikeout. St. Louis RHP Jason Motte pitched the eighth inning of that game and threw 12 pitches in a 1-2-3 inning. The organization hasn't decided the next step for either yet.