ST. LOUIS (AP) — During a prolonged period in which he was rarely used, Joe Kelly found a way to stay sharp. Then he showed the St. Louis Cardinals he's ready for a spot in the rotation.
"Yeah, I think I'd be able to handle that workload," Kelly said after working five scoreless innings once rookie Tyler Lyons was yanked early in a 6-4 loss to the Texas Rangers on Friday night. "The body feels good, the arm feels good.
"It's not like I'm getting sore the next day or anything," he said. "I'm ready for whenever they call me."
The 25-year-old Kelly made 16 starts as a rookie last year after replacing injured Jaime Garcia and was 5-7 with a 3.53 ERA. He allowed an earned run in 5 2-3 innings in a spot start June 5, taking the loss against Arizona, but before Friday had worked just 2 2-3 innings since then.
The next time out, Kelly could have Lyons' spot.
"Joe was great," manager Mike Matheny said. "He's done a great job staying mentally prepared and physically ready. He took advantage of his opportunity, and that's all we ask all of our guys to do."
Nelson Cruz snapped a ninth-inning tie with a two-run single through a drawn-in infield in the opener of a series between 2011 World Series opponents.
Derek Holland was strong at the end of a seven-inning stint after a shaky start, Neal Cotts (4-1) escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth when Jon Jay tapped out on a full-count pitch and Joe Nathan finished for his 23rd save in 24 chances. All of Cotts' decisions have come this month.
Left fielder David Murphy robbed Carlos Beltran of an extra-base hit and saved a run with a running catch at the wall in left-center to end it.
Allen Craig had two hits and two RBIs, plus he made a handful of outstanding plays at first base for the Cardinals.
The opener of the three-game series drew a sellout of 45,228 to Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals closed out the '11 Series with wild wins in Games 6 and 7.
This game had some of the drama that made that series one of the best in recent memory.
Trevor Rosenthal (1-1) struck out two in a perfect eighth but gave up two hits, botched a sacrifice attempt for an error and threw a wild pitch to the backstop in the ninth.
Both managers insisted the matchup between 2011 World Series opponents was just another series, with Matheny noting both rosters have changed a lot and the Rangers' Ron Washington saying he's been over the gut-wrenching feeling left by those two final losses in St. Louis since the start of spring training in 2012.