The St. Louis Cardinals' fifth starter spot has been quite a revolving door this season, but for now, it's Joe Kelly 's to lose.
That's assuming he remembers how to pitch.
Kelly hasn't seen game action in more than two weeks, but the visiting Cardinals are hoping he can pick up where he left off as he takes the mound Saturday against the Atlanta Braves .
The Cardinals have only needed a fifth starter twice since June 22, but there are no longer conveniently placed off days on the schedule. Beginning with a home sweep of Philadelphia earlier this week, St. Louis has 21 games in a 20-day stretch before its next scheduled rest Aug. 12.
That means some additional opportunities for Kelly (1-3, 3.88 ERA), who has mainly worked in long relief but made a pair of starts prior to the All-Star break. The right-hander is 1-1 with a 3.18 ERA in three starts this season and 1-0 with a 2.49 ERA in his last four outings overall, going at least five innings apiece in a pair of long relief appearances and two starts."I don't look too far ahead about anything," Kelly said after allowing one run over 5 1-3 in a 3-2 win over the Cubs on July 12. "I go out there and when they tell me to pitch, I pitch. That's what's good about being versatile, and I'm just still happy to be here."
That, however, is the last time Kelly has taken the mound, marking his longest gap between pitches in the majors.
It's been a day longer since Matt Holliday last stepped into the batter's box, but he's been activated from the disabled list and will start. The left fielder passed all of the necessary running tests to return after straining his hamstring July 11.
He'll be taking the field in a venue where he's fared quite well. Holliday is a career .383 hitter in 23 games at Turner Field - his best average of any road site where he's played at least 10 games - and he'll bring a 16-game hitting streak in Atlanta into his first look at Julio Teheran (7-5, 3.25).
The right-hander's 2.73 ERA since the beginning of June is tied for the best in the Braves' rotation over that span with Tim Hudson , who's out for the season with a fractured ankle. Teheran held the Mets to one run over six innings Monday in New York before Atlanta (58-45) plated a pair in the ninth to win 2-1.
Mike Minor held the Cardinals to a lone run over seven in Friday's series-opening 4-1 win, and without Hudson, the Braves may be relying on the left-hander and Teheran to front their rotation."With Huddy going down, that was our ace," Minor said. "That was our best guy. We just need everybody else to step it up a little bit."
The Cardinals have the best record in baseball through 100 games, but they haven't won a road series since mid-June and are in danger of dropping another one.
St. Louis went 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position, just the ninth time all year it's failed to get a hit in such situations. The Cardinals still lead the league in that category this season (.338) and this month (.353), but the Braves (.325) - who went 3 for 7 on Friday - have been the NL's next-best team in July.
Neither Kelly nor Teheran have faced their respective opponent previously.
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|July 12, 2013||Matt Holliday||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|July 11, 2013||Matt Holliday||Day-to-Day||Left game - right hamstring|
|July 02, 2013||Matt Holliday||Day-to-Day||Stiff neck/back|
|May 26, 2013||John Gast||15-Day DL||Left shoulder tightness|
|May 26, 2013||Carlos Beltran||Day-to-Day||Left shoulder soreness|
|May 25, 2013||John Gast||Day-to-Day||Left game - left shoulder tightness|
|July 25, 2013||Tim Hudson||15-Day DL||Fractured right ankle|
|July 21, 2013||Paul Maholm||15-Day DL||Left wrist contusion|
|July 13, 2013||B.J. Upton||15-Day DL||Right adductor strain|
|July 11, 2013||Jason Heyward||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained right hamstring|
|July 04, 2013||Jordan Schafer||15-Day DL||Right ankle contusion|
|July 02, 2013||B.J. Upton||Day-to-Day||Left game - left forearm spasms|
ATLANTA (AP) -- Andrelton Simmons and the Braves haven't said much about last year's NL wild-card loss to the Cardinals.
Beating the Cardinals in July won't make up for that playoff defeat. But Simmons said it's a start.
Simmons hit a two-run double in the eighth inning and the Braves, boosted by Julio Teheran 's sharp outing, beat the Cardinals 2-0 Saturday in a matchup of NL division leaders.
The Braves have won the first two games of the first series between the teams this season. The Cardinals beat the Braves 6-3 at Turner Field in last season's wild-card game.
"They're a great team," said Simmons of the Cardinals. "They got us last year in a pretty big game. We owe them some. It's good to see this team beating them."
Teheran allowed two hits in seven innings, striking out six and walking one.
Simmons' bases-loaded, two-out double came on a 99 mph fastball from Trevor Rosenthal . With the count at 2-1, Simmons was looking for a fastball.
"I know he was behind in the count and I know he's comfortable with his fastball," Simmons said. "He throws pretty hard. I was ready for it. ... I was just looking for something over the plate and he threw it somewhere I could reach it."
Randy Choate (1-1) walked Freddie Freeman to open the eighth. Evan Gattis struck out and Brian McCann singled. Rosenthal relieved and struck out Dan Uggla before walking Chris Johnson to load the bases.
Luis Avilan (3-0) pitched a perfect eighth and Craig Kimbrel recorded three outs to earn his 30th save.
Cardinals starter Joe Kelly pitched 6 1-3 scoreless innings, allowing seven hits and walking three in only his fourth start of the season and first appearance since July 12.
"Very, very impressive," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny . "It was maybe the best I've ever seen him throw. Everything. His aggressiveness, his slider, breaking ball, changeup, all of them were as good as I've seen.
"That was exactly what we were asking for, and then some."
Kelly may have earned himself another opportunity as the Cardinals' No. 5 starter.
"I like pitching, period," he said. "To be in the rotation would be awesome but I just take the ball when they tell me and take the opportunity when I get out there.
"I'm pitching right now in the moment. I feel like my stuff is there, in the zone."
Kelly matched Teheran through the sixth before finding trouble in the seventh.
With one out, Simmons singled and moved to third on pinch-hitter Joey Terdoslavich 's soft double to the left-center gap.
Kelly issued an intentional walk to Jason Heyward to load the bases. Right-hander Michael Maness replaced Kelly and got Justin Upton to ground into an inning-ending double play.
Teheran allowed a two-out double to Matt Holliday in the first and then walked Allen Craig . The right-hander permitted only one baserunner - Jon Jay doubled in the fifth - through the next six innings.
"I think that's the best game I've ever pitched," Teheran said. "The command I had today, I think that's the best I've had this year."
Holliday was activated off the 15-day disabled list before the game. He had been out since July 12 with a strained right hamstring.
Simmons hit eighth as Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez juggled his lineup. Heyward hit leadoff for only the second game this season. Upton, normally the No. 3 hitter, batted second for the first time in 2013.
Simmons had two hits. He ranks second on the team with 14 go-ahead RBIs, but said he was overdue to deliver the clutch hit.
"I know I've been struggling with runners in scoring position this year," Simmons said. "I've been trying, but it's nice to see results."
NOTES: With two hits and a walk, Johnson is hitting .332 to tie the Cardinals' Yadier Molina for the NL lead. Molina was 0 for 3. ... The Cardinals optioned OF-1B Brock Peterson to Triple-A Memphis to clear a roster spot for Holliday. ... Gonzalez said he is 95 percent certain RHP Brandon Beachy , returning from elbow ligament-replacement surgery in June 2012, will come off the DL to start Monday night's game against Colorado. ... The three-game series ends Sunday night when Atlanta RHP Kris Medlen faces St. Louis rookie RHP Shelby Miller .