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STL@KC: Beltran drives in four on two doubles

KANSAS CITY -- As the Cardinals sloshed through the past six weeks with little sustained consistency, they maintained that the boost was coming.

A lengthy disabled list was bound to thin at some point. And when it did on Friday, the Cardinals received an immediate shot in the arm.

Expecting the Cards to regularly send an opposing starter to the showers less than two innings into his start would certainly be outrageous. But in Friday's 11-4 win over the Royals, St. Louis did provide a reminder of what this team can be when most of its pieces are in place.

"I think it's who we are when everyone's healthy," said Skip Schumaker, who was 1-for-3 with an RBI double in the win. "No offense to anybody who was sent down, but we're talking about [this being] one of the better offenses in the league in April. I think we have the ability to score with anybody when healthy."

While still not entirely healthy, this is the closest the club has been to full strength since racing out to a 14-8 record in April.

In addition to watching Carlos Beltran's return to Kauffman Stadium, the 37,902 on hand watched the potency of a lineup that, for the first time in more than a month, included Matt Carpenter and Jon Jay. Both were activated from the disabled list prior to the start of the series.

Jay had been sidelined since May 16, the result of a shoulder injury. The club went 14-20 in his absence. A 2 1/2-game lead in the National League Central morphed into a four-game deficit during that span. Carpenter went down five days after Jay.

In their returns, both scored twice. Carpenter finished with two hits and an RBI. Jay, who is likely to settle into the second spot in the batting order, reached base twice.

"I was," Jay said, "just happy to be back and to contribute."

Added Carpenter: "It's getting that initial team back that we started with in April. It's just the camaraderie. It's such a fun group to play with, and having everybody healthy and rooting for each other is just a lot of fun."

Indeed, the Cardinals, who matched a season-high 17 hits, are nearly fully healthy on the offensive side. The only absentee now is Lance Berkman, who could return in just a little more than a month. St. Louis did its damage on Friday, too, without the services of Allen Craig, who is nursing a sore wrist.

After scoring seven runs in 28 innings in Detroit, the Cards broke out for 10 before the Royals recorded their fifth out of the night. Kansas City starter Vin Mazzaro, who shut out St. Louis for six innings one week ago, surrendered seven of those runs.

Beltran led the way with his fourth four-RBI night as a Cardinal.

"We want to score early; it just wasn't happening for us lately," Beltran said. "Hopefully after today's game that gives us a little bit of a boost to keep doing what we did today."

The first four runs came in the opening frame, which began with six straight batters reaching base. In his first at-bat at Kauffman Stadium since the Royals traded him in June 2004, Beltran delivered a two-run double with the bases loaded. Yadier Molina's RBI single and a sacrifice fly by Carpenter padded the lead.

"Never gave myself a chance to get in the groove," Mazzaro said. "I wasn't down in the zone. That's just going to happen. You're going to get hit if you're up in the zone like that."

An inning later, 10 batters came to the plate. Beltran had another two-run double. David Freese and Tyler Greene did, as well, in the six-run inning.

And with his RBI double in the fourth, Schumaker ensured that everyone in the starting lineup finished with at least one hit.

Perhaps providing the most telling glimpse of how anemic this offense has been at times recently is this: The Cards scored more runs in the first four innings of this game than they had in four of their first six series this month.

"It was good to get things back in order," manager Mike Matheny said. "I think that's the kind of offense -- you're not going to get it all the time -- but it's nice to see it happen every once and a while."

While the Royals' bullpen managed to settle things eventually, Cardinals starter Joe Kelly rode the offensive explosion to his first Major League win. After a pair of no-decisions, Kelly went a career-high six innings in his third big-league start. He allowed three runs on nine hits, one of which was a two-run homer by catcher Salvador Perez.

His fastball command wavered for most of the night, but Kelly did a better job pitching lower in the strike zone as his outing progressed. After allowing five hits the first time through the lineup, the right-hander limited the Royals to just four in his final four innings.

"I didn't try to look at the score," Kelly said. "I didn't try to pitch to the score. I tried to go out there and do what I usually do. But it's always nice to have that much run support."

Afterward, Kelly was presented with some tickets and game-used balls as mementos for the milestone.

With the win, the Cards again avoid dropping below .500. This marked the fifth time the club has taken the field this month with a .500 record. The Cards have won all five of those games.

As for the annual I-70 Series, it is now notched at two wins apiece, with a pair of weekend games remaining. The Cardinals are 6-7 in Interleague Play.

"Sometimes you have to kick it into another gear," Freese said. "We got some guys back who bring a lot of energy, some guys that play extremely hard. We're glad they're back. It's nice to turn it on."

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