ST. LOUIS (AP) - Joe Kelly pitched pretty well.
The problem was the St. Louis Cardinals' offense, not their rookie stand-in starter.
The 24-year-old right-hander was strong for the fourth time in five outings as the stand-in starter for injured Jaime Garcia, hurt only by Tyler Colvin's three-run home run in the third inning of a 3-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday night.
The Cardinals might be counting on Kelly for a while, considering Chris Carpenter will undergo season-ending surgery later this month for a nerve injury in his shoulder.
``I think the bar's been there the whole time,' Kelly said. ``My first start, I don't want guys looking at me like ``Oh, he's just a rookie, he's learning.' I want to go out there and be successful and help this team win. When I don't do that, it doesn't feel too good.'
Kelly said he takes ``good and bad' from each start.
``Even if I pitch terrible, I try to look at the positives,' Kelly said. ``I don't want to hang my head out there. I just want to go out there and get better next time.'
Manager Mike Matheny's only quibble was he wanted Kelly to have gone deeper into the game.
``He was not as efficient as he could certainly be, but overall I thought he did a nice job,' Matheny said. ``He kept us in there. He's given us a chance every start. You can't ask for more than that.'
Jeff Francis worked five solid innings before the bullpen took over and Colvin hit a three-run homer.
Matt Holliday homered for the second straight game, hitting his 14th in the first inning for St. Louis. Carlos Beltran was 0 for 3 with a walk to end a nine-game RBI streak in which he drove in 15 runs.
The Cardinals, who had been 32-10 when scoring first, were 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position. They were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position in the series opener Monday, although it didn't hurt them in a 9-3 victory.
``Normally we get that kind of lead and it's hard to catch us because we keep piling them on,' Matheny said. ``But they kept us off-balance. They did what they needed to do to shut us down.'
Matt Belisle retired four in a row to end the eighth, the biggest out coming on Holliday's groundout with two runners on. Holliday left Busch Stadium without speaking to reporters.
Rafael Betancourt worked out of trouble in the ninth for his 13th save in 17 chances. He had blown three of his past five save opportunities, but got Jon Jay to look at strike three with two on for the final out.
The versatile Colvin has started at all three outfield spots plus first base and batted everywhere in the lineup except fourth and ninth. He's batting .358 (24 for 67) his past 18 games with seven homers and 22 RBIs.
Francis (2-1) beat the Cardinals for the sixth time in seven career decisions, following up on his first victory since July 2010 in his previous start against the Cubs.
Francis didn't allow a run after giving up Holliday's two-run homer in the first. The Cardinals had two runners in scoring position the next four innings against the lefty, who earned his 57th win to break a tie with Ubaldo Jimenez for third on the franchise career list and leave him one behind Jason Jennings for second.
Jay singled with one out in the first ahead of Holliday's 14th homer, a low liner that banged off a sign just over the left-field wall. Holliday is batting .500 (30 for 60) in the past 15 games with four homers, 18 RBIs and nine doubles, and has five homers and 13 RBIs in 19 career games against his old team.
Both teams left the bases loaded in the third, but the Rockies took the lead on Colvin's 10th homer while the Cardinals came up empty when Allen Craig broke his bat on a two-out soft liner to third.
``He put on a good swing, not necessarily a bad pitch,' Matheny said of Colvin's homer. ``The count was right, he threw a changeup and it ended up hurting him. Every once in a while you have those nights where one swing dictates the game.'
The Rockies stranded three in the fourth, too, when Carlos Gonzalez popped out to short. Gonzalez singled in the third to extend his hitting streak to 11 games.
NOTES: The slow-footed Molina stole his eighth base in nine tries standing up in the sixth, catching Josh Roenicke napping with a huge jump ... Gonzalez is batting .372 (16 for 34) during his streak. ... Cardinals rookie LHP Barret Browning has retired all nine batters he's faced after working a scoreless seventh with a strikeout. ... Daniel Descalso had been 0 for 10 as a pinch hitter before singling in the seventh.
The Associated Press News Service
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