It took an offensive blackout and countless griping from fans, but St. Louis skipper Tony LaRussa has finally made the move.

Monday night against the Washington Nationals, Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols found himself batting cleanup. It was the first time Pujols batted outside of the third spot since May 30, 2003, when he hit fourth against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Matt Holliday will now bat third.

“It’s a couple things,” La Russa said. “No. 1, Matt is feeling O.K., but he’s a major impact guy for us and we’ve got to get him going to where he’s more like himself. Two, hitting him in front of Albert should be a plus, but hitting him second, I didn’t really like that too much.”

One reason for making this move was Holliday’s struggles with runners in scoring position. This season, he’s eight-for-47 in those high pressure situations. Otherwise, he is having a fine year at the dish. By moving him to third, St. Louis optimizes RBI opportunities for Pujols, while lessening the chance of Holliday coming up with runners on.

Another way it helps the Cardinals is by simpling shaking things up. It’s no secret that most of the St. Louis lineup has been under-producing, and this move returns Holliday to a place he is familiar with from his years with the Colorado Rockies. Pujols, meanwhile, will be able to hit with more runners on, because Holliday is a high average, high on-base percentage guy who can come up with two-out hits if necessary.

“We’ll see,” the manager said. “We’ve still got to make it work, but Matt’s been a third-place hitter. He likes hitting third. We need to be more productive. So you identify, there’s things we can work on, there’s things we can improve, which we will improve. And there’s other things like this that maybe there’s a spark there for us. and getting Matt going would be a spark.”

Holliday didn’t say he would change his approach at the plate, but he did acknowledge he likes coming up in the first inning.

“But with Albert,” he said, “you usually hit in the first inning [anyway].”

Although LaRussa said Albert approved of the move, the St. Louis star didn’t have much to say about the switch.

“I don’t care where I hit,” Pujols said. “I’m just glad to be in the lineup.”

In a related story, Cardinals shortstop Felipe Lopez rejoined the team from the disabled list, and led off in last night’s contest.

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