Matt Holliday had four hits, including a two-run homer, to help the St. Louis Cardinals take over sole possession of the NL Central with an 11-4 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday night.
The Cardinals entered the night tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who lost 5-2 at home to San Diego.
St. Louis reduced its magic number for clinching a playoff spot to five with 11 games remaining.
Joe Kelly (9-4) baffled the Rockies as he allowed three hits over five sharp innings before turning a 10-0 lead over to the bullpen.
The hard-throwing right-hander has been one of the team's most consistent pitchers since becoming a permanent member of the rotation in July.
Juan Nicasio (8-8) struggled with his command, lasting just 2 2-3 innings and allowing eight runs, which tied a career high.
Holliday led an 18-hit night by the Cardinals, who had seven players with at least two hits.
Holliday finished 4 for 4 with a walk, double and two-run homer against his former team. He drove in three runs and scored twice.
The Cardinals ran away with the game in the third when they sent 11 batters to the plate and scored six times.
Daniel Descalso had a two-run triple in the decisive inning, while Holliday added a double and an RBI single.
Colorado's Michael Cuddyer finished 2 for 3 with a walk and an RBI to raise his average to.331, which is tops in the NL.
Kelly hardly seemed intimidated in his first start at Coors Field.
He didn't allow a base runner to reach as far as third base until the fourth inning.
He wiggled out of that jam when first baseman Matt Adams corralled Josh Rutledge's liner.
Once Kelly was out of the game, the Rockies went to work as they scored four runs off reliever Carlos Martinez in the seventh.
But the bullpen shut down the Rockies from there, with Kevin Siegrist striking out pinch-hitter Jordan Pacheco to end the game.
Leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter was frequently on base for the Cardinals, with two singles and a hit by pitch.
He leads the league hits (187), doubles (51) and multi-hit games (60).
Yadier Molina gave the Cardinals a lead in the first inning with a two-out single to center.
Molina is one of the top hitters in the league with runners in scoring position.
Todd Helton nearly tied the game in the bottom half of the first, but Holliday made a leaping catch against the fence in left field.
The 40-year-old Helton announced last weekend his decision to retire after his 17th season with the Rockies.
He leaves as the franchise's leader in virtually every offensive category.