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AP - Sports

Carlos Beltran admits it was an emotional time when the Kansas City Royals traded him eight years ago this weekend. However, it may be the Kauffman Stadium crowd that is feeling blue after he leaves town.

Beltran returns to Kansas City for the first time Friday night when the St. Louis Cardinals open a three-game series against the Royals.

After being drafted by Kansas City in 1995, Beltran played six-plus seasons with the Royals, driving in 100 or more runs four times while winning AL Rookie of the Year in 1999.

The deal that sent him to Houston on June 24, 2004, hurt, but Beltran said he understands it now.

"When it happened, I cried," Beltran told the Cardinals' official website. "Because I was emotional. I signed with the Royals, I came up with the Royals, I had many years in that organization. But at the end of the day, those types of moments make you stronger as a person and make you understand a little more the game of baseball and how things happen."

Beltran faced the Royals for the first time last week. He went 6 for 14 and drove in a run as St. Louis dropped two of three. He said he's not certain the reception he'll get from the Kansas City fans.

He may be more focused on getting the Cardinals (35-35) back on track after they lost two of three at Detroit this week. St. Louis went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position in Thursday's 2-1 loss in 10 innings and 3 for 22 in the series.

"We know we're a lot better than our record, but our record is where we are, and we can't go back and change that," starter Kyle Lohse said.

Beltran, who had a 12-game hitting streak snapped, will try to help the Cardinals bounce back against Vin Mazzaro (3-1, 2.57 ERA), who went six scoreless innings in a 3-2 win at St. Louis last Friday. The right-hander had a 5.73 ERA in his previous two starts against the Cardinals.

Joe Kelly (0-0, 2.89) will counter for St. Louis, making his third career start. After making his major league debut against Cleveland on June 10, Kelly allowed three runs and seven hits in 4 1-3 innings of a 10-7 victory over Kansas City last Saturday.

Kelly will try to help slow down the Royals (31-36), who have won seven of nine. They took two of three against Houston this week, winning 2-1 on Wednesday.

The Royals' bullpen has been key during the stretch, going 4-1 with a 3.28 ERA while being called on to pitch three or more innings six times. Their relievers lead the majors with 260 2-3 innings.

"They've been doing it all year and once again they came up big today," left fielder Alex Gordon said. "I swear one of these days our offense is going to get rolling and we're going to start giving the bullpen a rest. Hopefully it will come soon."

St. Louis has won eight of 11 in Kansas City.

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