Joe Kelly began the season in the St Louis Cardinals’ bullpen with an electric fastball and an identity crisis.
Consider the crisis solved: Kelly has become The Stopper.
The right-hander allowed four hits over six solid innings to win his fourth straight start and the Cardinals moved back into a share of first place in the National League (NL) Central with a 7-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.
Kelly walked two and struck out five, while remaining unbeaten since being moved to the starting rotation full-time in July.
“He’s kind of figured himself out,” St Louis manager Mike Matheny said.
Kelly received plenty of help from the offense, with Matt Holliday and David Freese driving in two runs each, while Matt Carpenter, Allen Craig, Yadier Molina and Shane Robinson added two hits each for St Louis.
Justin Morneau went one for three in his debut with the Pirates, a day after Pittsburgh acquired the first baseman from Minnesota to bolster the club’s bid for its first playoff appearance in 21 years.
The NL West-leading Dodgers edged San Diego 2-1 to complete a three-game sweep, their 10th of the season, with Zack Greinke allowing one run over seven innings and Yasiel Puig hitting a homer in the sixth.
Greinke (14-3) won his sixth straight start for the first time since winning nine in a row over the 2008-2009 seasons. The right-hander gave up two hits, struck out seven and walked two. Greinke, who came in batting .340, also singled with two outs in the fifth.
In Denver, Colorado, Todd Helton doubled for his 2,500th career hit, while Michael Cuddyer homered among his four hits and Colorado overcame the loss of starting pitcher Tyler Chatwood to beat Cincinnati 7-4.
In other NL games, the Giants beat the Diamondbacks 8-2, with Yusmeiro Petit striking out a career-high 10. The Marlins beat Atlanta 7-0 to end a six-game losing streak and the Cubs had a 7-1 win over the Phillies at Chicago, while the Nationals avoided a series sweep by beating the Mets 6-5.
In the American League (AL), Coco Crisp and Stephen Vogt homered and A.J. Griffin struck out seven in seven innings as the Athletics completed a three-game sweep of rival playoff contender Tampa Bay with a 5-1
After Crisp led off the bottom of the first with a home run, James Loney tied it with his own longball in the top of the second. Griffin (12-9) settled in after that to win his second straight outing following a four-start winless stretch.
Griffin allowed one run on five hits and walked one.
In Arlington, Texas, Kevin Correia pitched seven strong innings as the Twins clinched their first series victory at Texas in four years, beating the AL West-leading Rangers 4-2.
Correia (9-10) allowed one run and scattered five hits. The right-hander struck out two and got 14 outs on the ground, including a pair of double plays.
J.J. Hardy and Adam Jones hit three-run homers in the seventh inning as the Orioles beat the Yankees 7-3 to avert a sweep in a matchup of wild-card contenders.
Shut out on three singles on Saturday, the Orioles were blanked by Andy Pettitte for six innings before their seven-run rally against the 41-year-old lefty and a faltering bullpen.
In Detroit, Michigan, the Indians had a 4-0 win over the Tigers, with Mike Aviles hitting a grand slam in the ninth inning, ending a run of seven straight losses to the AL Central leaders.
The Royals had a 5-0 win at Toronto, while the Red Sox edged the White Sox 7-6 to complete a three-game sweep.
The Astros beat the Mariners 2-0.