ST. LOUIS -- It was clear from the get-go Saturday afternoon that your routine, two-and-a-half hour game was not going to happen.
Yadier Molina's two-run single with two out and the bases loaded in the seventh ultimately gave the Cardinals a 10-7 victory over the Royals in a back-and-forth game lasting more than three-and-a-half hours. But that wasn't before a crowd of 42,018 at Busch Stadium witnessed three lead changes, and the reversal of a triple play along with Cards manager Mike Matheny's ejection in the first inning.
"We got the win, that's all that matters whoever comes through," said Molina, who finished 2-for-3 with four RBIs. "It was me today. But the important thing was that we got the win."
The bizarre scene in the top half of the first occurred due to confusion on Eric Hosmer's low-hit line drive back to Cards starter Joe Kelly. While it was unclear whether Kelly caught the ball before it hit the ground, home-plate umpire Kerwin Danely initially signaled an out call.
Kelly fired to first to complete what he thought was a double play as Royals runners Alex Gordon and Chris Getz advanced one base on the play. The ball was thrown back to Kelly by first baseman Allen Craig and Kelly fired to second base. Rafael Furcal stepped on the bag for what the Cardinals believed was another forceout.
Royals manager Ned Yost argued and the triple-play call was reversed. Matheny contested that the call could not be overturned until he was ejected. Kansas City ultimately got one run out of the inning on Mike Moustakas' single.
"I just didn't feel right leaving the argument," Matheny said. "It seemed like our guys were getting short-ended there. I know they were trying to get the call right and I appreciated that, and I like that part of the game where they come together. But I don't think it's that clear on that particular play."
Perhaps the overturned call and Matheny's ejection inspired the Cardinals' bats, as St. Louis answered back in a big way in the bottom half of the first. Two-run homers by both Matt Holliday and Molina highlighted the inning. The Cardinals hammered Royals starter Bruce Chen, bouncing him from the game after 1 2/3 innings and six runs.
Holliday finished the game with season-highs of four hits and five RBIs. His homer in the first, a moonshot that landed in Big Mac Land in the third deck of Busch Stadium, was his first since May 24.
The Cardinals left fielder had just six extra-base hits since May 16 entering Saturday's game. Holliday said hitting coaches Mark McGwire and John Mabry noticed a mechanical issue in his swing before the game, and he worked with them to make a simple fix in his form made that made the difference.
"I'm just trying to battle and find a good groove and a comfort zone. You try to build on it," Holliday said of his big day. "I think the adjustment that I made should carry me over. You just kind of keep working on the same things that we talked about [Saturday] morning and go with that."
Kelly rebounded well after the first-inning boost, but got into trouble in the fifth. He lasted just 4 1/3 innings in his second Major League start -- allowing two earned runs on seven hits and gave up a solo homer to Moustakas in the fourth.
"Early on I was falling behind hitters, which obviously that can't be done," Kelly said. "I was giving them too many good pitches to hit when I was falling behind hitters. Other than that, I started throwing better my second, third and fourth innings. I just need to get ahead of hitters and I'm fine."
The Royals slowly chipped away at St. Louis' lead, scoring once in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, and adding three in the seventh to take a 7-6 lead. Relievers Sam Freeman and Eduardo Sanchez each exited before getting an out in the seventh. Freeman had allowed one run in the sixth and Sanchez two in the seventh. Marc Rzepczynski took over but couldn't stop the bleeding, allowing three straight hits and a run.
"After we took the lead in the seventh, I figured we were in great shape," Yost said.
But as they had earlier, the Cardinals countered a big inning with runs of their own. Holliday tied the game with an RBI single, and Molina's full-count single scored the two go-ahead runs off Royals reliever Tim Collins (4-1).
"Huge day for Matt. That ball was killed, the first ball he hit," Matheny said. "And Yadi coming through in a big situation, I don't know why that surprises any of us. That's when he's at his best."
The victory was the Cardinals' 10th comeback win of the year. They scored as many runs on Saturday as they had in their previous five games combined.
For both Holliday and his club, getting hits in bunches and in the clutch are things to harp on moving forward.
"Those middle innings, we had a tough time scoring. But we scored early and scored late," Holliday said. "You've just got to keep answering, and we kept pecking away and getting after it. Finally we were able to get enough to win."
Mike Still is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.