ST. LOUIS (AP) — Joe Kelly had to fight all night long. He had just enough to lead St. Louis to another big win.
Kelly pitched six effective innings, Matt Holliday broke out of a slump with two doubles and the Cardinals beat the Atlanta Braves 6-2 on Thursday.
"I didn't have any of my good stuff," said Kelly, who threw 109 pitches. "From pitch one to the last pitch nothing was easy."
Kelly (5-3) allowed two runs and seven hits while improving to 5-0 with a 1.79 ERA in his last seven starts. St. Louis improved to 7-1 in Kelly's eight starts since he rejoined the rotation on July 6.
"We needed a solid outing from him and he was very good," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "He did a nice job for us."
The NL East-leading Braves played without Jason Heyward, who is out with a broken right jaw after he was beaned during Wednesday's 4-1 win at the New York Mets. The outfielder had surgery on Thursday in Atlanta and could miss the rest of the regular season.
The Braves had at least one batter reach in each of the first five innings, but couldn't come up with a big blow against Kelly, who struck out three and walked two.
"He did a good job of keeping us off balance," Atlanta outfielder Justin Upton said. "He threw his fastball in the zone and got the job done."
Kelly may not have been pleased with his effort, but his teammates certainly were impressed.
"He's like having a Ferrari in your garage," second baseman Matt Carpenter said. "He's settling in as a starter and he's running with it. I love it when he goes out there and competes. He's aggressive and he's pitching with confidence."
Upton hit his 24th homer, but the Braves lost for the second time in three games at the start of a six-game trip. Atlanta had won eight of its last nine regular-season games against St. Louis.
St. Louis slugger Matt Holliday went 2 for 3 and drove in a run, matching the amount of hits he had during a 2-for-24 slide over his previous six games. He doubled and scored in the fourth, then capped the Cardinals' three-run fifth with an RBI double that made it 4-2.