Jaime Garcia 's return to the St. Louis Cardinals' rotation may be just days away, and that means someone has to go. If Joe Kelly pitches anything like he did in his latest start, Mike Matheny 's decision shouldn't be too difficult.
The rookie looks to bounce back from perhaps his worst performance in the majors in what could be his final shot in the rotation Tuesday night, when St. Louis opens a three-game series with the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks .
Kelly (2-5, 3.47 ERA) got the call from Triple-A Memphis when Garcia went down with a left shoulder sprain in early June, and included in his first 11 major league appearances is a stretch of seven straight quality starts.
That run ended when he allowed three runs and 12 baserunners over 5 2-3 innings Aug. 3 against Milwaukee, and he was even less effective Wednesday. The right-hander was charged with seven runs - four earned - and nine hits over five innings in a 15-0 loss to San Francisco.
Not exactly the best time for a rough outing considering Garcia could make his first start in the majors since June 5 on Sunday.
"When I'm scheduled to pitch, I pitch," Kelly told the team's official website when asked about such speculation. "I don't look into that at all, really."
The Cardinals (62-53) open a nine-game homestand Tuesday and are in the midst of a stretch of 16 of 19 at Busch Stadium, while the Diamondbacks just finished their lone home series in a span of 19 games. Arizona salvaged the finale against major league-best Washington 7-4 on Sunday as five of its six hits went for two bases.
The Diamondbacks (58-57) are within striking distance of both the top spot in the NL West and wild-card leaders Atlanta and Pittsburgh, but manager Kirk Gibson isn't pleased with a team that's made 10 errors in its last seven games.
"We have to play a cleaner game," Gibson said Sunday prior to Arizona's 30th game in 31 days. "There is a bit of fatigue, so there are going to be mistakes. We're trying not to, and we moved on very quickly. It's very frustrating for everybody, but we move on and get back after it. We've lost some tough games."
Ian Kennedy 's latest start was perhaps his toughest - and unquestionably his shortest - of the season. Arizona gave the right-hander a 2-0 cushion in the first, but Kennedy (10-9, 4.34) immediately surrendered the lead and wound up allowing six runs over four innings in a 7-6 defeat.
"I just didn't execute at all tonight," Kennedy told the team's official website. "It's frustrating. We're trying to go for this NL West race, and to pitch like that was not acceptable. I can't say how frustrating this is."
That's likely how he felt May 8 versus St. Louis, when he gave up six runs in the first two innings before settling down to go seven in a 6-1 loss. That dropped Kennedy to 1-2 with a 10.13 ERA in three career starts against the Cardinals.
St. Louis swept that three-game set in the desert and has outscored Arizona 33-17 while winning five straight in the series.
Three of the Cardinals' eight homers against the Diamondbacks in May came from Carlos Beltran , who seems to torment Arizona regardless of where he's playing. The NL RBI leader with 83, Beltran is hitting .431 with a 1.338 OPS in 15 games against the Diamondbacks - while wearing three different uniforms - since 2011.
Justin Upton , on the other hand, hasn't enjoyed facing St. Louis. His .204 career average versus the Cardinals is his lowest against any NL team, though like the rest of the Diamondbacks, he's never faced Kelly.
|August 09, 2012||Willie Bloomquist||15-Day DL||Lower back stiffness|
|August 09, 2012||Josh Collmenter||15-Day DL||Ulcers|
|August 06, 2012||Henry Blanco||15-Day DL||Sprained left thumb|
|July 09, 2012||Wil Nieves||15-Day DL||Turf toe, right foot|
|June 27, 2012||Daniel Hudson||15-Day DL||Right foream tightness|
|June 25, 2012||John McDonald||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique|
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|August 08, 2012||Allen Craig||Day-to-Day||Sore ribs|
|August 03, 2012||Lance Berkman||15-Day DL||Right knee inflammation|
|July 28, 2012||Rafael Furcal||Day-to-Day||Stiff back|
|July 26, 2012||David Freese||Day-to-Day||Left game - right calf cramp|
|July 24, 2012||Lance Berkman||Day-to-Day||Left game - HBP right knee|
|July 17, 2012||Matt Holliday||Day-to-Day||Left game - Left thigh|
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- If this was Joe Kelly 's last turn, he's leaving with his head held high.
The rookie right-hander pitched into the seventh inning of what could be his final start before Jaime Garcia comes off the disabled list, and the St. Louis Cardinals got home runs from Matt Holliday and Jon Jay in an 8-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday night.
"I love him in the rotation," second baseman Skip Schumaker said after getting two hits and turning a dazzling double play to his left on a short hop to rob Miguel Montero in the second. "I don't obviously manage but he's making it really difficult on everyone to move him out.
"We think the world of him."
Montero hit a two-run homer for the Diamondbacks, who have lost four of six to drop to .500. They are 0-4 against the Cardinals this season.
Ian Kennedy (10-10) made throwing errors on consecutive sacrifice bunt attempts to help the Cardinals score two unearned runs in the seventh for a three-run cushion, and gave up both homers for a four-game total of eight long balls.
"I feel like the two of them were good pitches, but obviously not good enough," Kennedy said. "It's frustrating when you give up those solo home runs.
"Every once in a while, they add up."
Kelly (3-5) gave up two runs in 6 1-3 innings and matched his career best with six strikeouts, lowering his ERA to 3.41 - trailing only Kyle Lohse 's 2.72 in the rotation. Garcia had eight strikeouts and three walks, throwing 93 pitches in five innings for Triple-A Memphis in his fourth rehab start Tuesday night.
Manager Mike Matheny swatted away a question about whether Garcia was ready to step in, saying "too early for that right now." Before the game he said he advised Kelly to ignore speculation.
"Everyone else thinks about it a lot more than I do," Kelly said. "It hasn't really crossed my mind. Until someone tells me otherwise, I'll just keep the same routine, same plan."
Holliday's two-run homer in the fourth reached the third deck in left just inside the foul pole to put St. Louis ahead. His 23rd homer topped last year's total.
Jay hit his fourth of the year to open the sixth for a 3-0 lead.
Kelly had cruised through the middle innings Justin Upton singled to start the seventh. Montero homered to straightaway center on the next pitch, his 14th of the season.
In minutes, Kennedy doubled his season total of two errors through his first 23 starts and helped the Cardinals pull away. He was off-balance fielding Rafael Furcal 's sacrifice bunt and double-pumped an underhand throw that first baseman Paul Goldschmidt dropped after being screened to put two men on with none out in the seventh.
Kennedy then he floated a throw high over third base on what would have been an easy forceout on pinch hitter Shane Robinson 's sacrifice attempt to allow a run.
"We just self-disintegrated at the end of the game," manager Kirk Gibson said. "We made two errors on two trivial bunt plays."
Kennedy entered the season with three career errors in 100 starts. He's 1-3 with a 8.59 ERA against the Cardinals in four career outings.
Allen Craig added a run-scoring groundout with the bases loaded off Brad Ziegler to make it 5-2 in the seventh. Pinch hitter Matt Carpenter was credited with a two-run double on a low liner that center fielder Gerardo Parra trapped and then tried to sell as a catch as the Diamondbacks began trotting off the field. Second base umpire Gary Darling, closest to the play, reversed third base umpire Paul Emmel's call as the Cardinals kept running.
"I had a great view of it. I knew it was down," Carpenter said. "You would have thought he for-sure caught it, the way he was acting."
Kelly survived a pair of fielding miscues by Holliday and Jay in the first and third to keep it scoreless.
Holliday froze in his tracks in left and retreated too late on Jason Kubel 's double that bounced off the warning track with two outs in the first, but Kelly struck out Goldschmidt. Jay broke in from center on Stephen Drew 's one-out triple in the third and with a late dive got just the tip of his glove on the ball, but Kubel grounded into a double play.
Jay made a nice juggling catch at the wall to rob Drew for the last out in the fifth. The ball squirted out of Jay's glove as he hit the ball but he re-gloved it while landing.
NOTES: Carpenter is 7 for 24 as a pinch hitter with 10 RBIs, most by a Cardinals rookie since Joe Frazier had 15 in 1954. ... The Cardinals have won six in a row in the series dating to last season. ... Kennedy has surrendered 23 homers, among the league leaders. ... Montero leads all catchers with 70 RBIs. ... Adam Wainwright (10-10) is 4-0 with a 1.53 ERA in his last four home starts entering Wednesday night's matchup against Joe Saunders (6-8, 3.53). Saunders allowed six earned runs in 3 1-3 innings in a loss to St. Louis on May 7. ... Carlos Beltran was 6 for 17 with two homers and six RBIs against Kennedy before striking out all three at-bats.