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'Amped up' Kelly settles down for solid start

Admittedly dealing with emotions of NLCS, righty closes with three shutout frames

ST. LOUIS -- Even for the typically unflappable Joe Kelly, the emotions of starting Game 1 of the National League Championship Series were a bit unnerving on the mound.

As the excitement crept in, Kelly battled command issues early in the game, leading to four hits, a wild pitch, a hit batsman and two walks as the Dodgers took a two-run lead in the third inning on Juan Uribe's single.

"Emotions were flying high, and I was just excited to be pitching out there," Kelly said after the Cardinals' 3-2, 13-inning victory on Friday night.

But the right-hander wasn't shaken for long. He recorded the Cards' first hit with a two-out single against Dodgers starter Zack Greinke in the third. After Matt Carpenter reached on a walk, Carlos Beltran sent both of them home with a two-run double, tying the game at 2. Kelly then rode that momentum for three scoreless innings, retiring eight of his last 11 batters.

"After you get runs, it's big to try to shut those guys down as quick as you can," Kelly said. "After I scored, I was really excited and just tried to do what I can to get on the fence back into the dugout as quick as I could."

Kelly exited after six innings, allowing two earned runs on six hits, two walks and five strikeouts, and the bullpen held on for seven scoreless innings until Beltran's walk-off single in the 13th inning sealed the win.

"[Catcher Yadier Molina] came out and told me, 'Hey, man, you've got good stuff. Try not to be too amped up right now and just try to make quality pitches.'" Kelly said. "And that's what I tried to do."

Kelly ran into a few jams, but with the exception of Uribe's knock with the bases loaded in the third, he pitched out of them. Manager Mike Matheny had pitchers warming up in the bullpen, but each time, Kelly sat them back down by cleaning up his own mess.

"In these games, especially since we have extra arms available, we keep a pretty short leash if something doesn't look right," Matheny said. "What you always say about the good pitchers, [they] are able to get it done when they don't have their best stuff, and Joe didn't have his best stuff tonight.

"He showed signs of it. When he would get on the corners, he was really good. But there were other times he was battling from behind the count and he had to get too much to the plate, and you can't do that to an offense like this. So Joe got into a better feel. He pitched out of a couple really tough jams, but overall, he got the job done without being real, real sharp."

The 25-year-old did just enough to keep the Cardinals in the game opposite a solid performance from Greinke, who allowed two runs on four hits and a walk while striking out 10 in eight innings.

"[Kelly] just gave up two runs," Molina said. "[He] kept us in the game. That's a great job."

Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for
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