CHICAGO -- Joe Kelly worked a quality 5 1/3 innings and a series of relievers kept a lid on the Chicago Cubs the rest of the way as the St. Louis Cardinals right hander picked up his first victory of the season on Friday afternoon.
Kelly (1-3) worked with an early 2-0 lead and gave up just one earned run and three hits as the Cardinals beat the Cubs 3-2 in the second of a four-game weekend series in front of 37,322 fans at Wrigley Field.
"The ball was jumping out of his hand without much effort," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He was pretty efficient today, which was something new for him. He had a lot of ground balls, which shows you he was in the bottom of the zone and had good downward movement."
The Cardinals were also efficient at the plate, making the most of seven hits.
Carlos Beltran went 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored in the first inning as the Cardinals jumped to an early lead and never trailed.
Beltran, who went 0-for-4 in his 2,000th career game on Thursday, gave the Cardinals a 1-0 lead with a first-inning triple that scored Matt Carpenter, who had reached on a leadoff single. Beltran lined a Carlos Villanueva offering to the right field corner with one out.
Allen Craig made it 2-0 with a single up the middle, scoring Beltran.
"That was huge for us," Beltran said. "I always believe that when we score early we have a good chance to win ballgames. We have such a good bullpen right now and our starting rotation is doing really good for us."
Kelly's breakthrough victory came after three starts and 21 relief appearances.
"My goal today was to pitch down and get these guys out as quick as you can," he said. "(And when) you score two in the first, as a pitcher you just want to go out there and get quick outs and get these guys back out there."
Five relievers worked the rest of the way, collectively holding the Cubs to one run and two hits while striking out five.
Edward Mujica, the Cardinals' sixth pitcher of the afternoon, had a 1-2-3 ninth for his 26th save of the season.
Villenueva (2-5) stumbled early in his 11th start of the season and lost his fourth straight. He has not won since April 18 against Texas.
"I thought I came out well, but I just couldn't put those guys away (in the first)," Villanueva said. "I had Carpenter on two strikes and Beltran (too) and we did exactly what we wanted to do but just didn't execute the pitches.
"After that, we settled down and gave the boys a chance to win."
The Cubs cut the deficit in half in the third when Alfonso Soriano laced a two-out single to center, scoring Luis Valbuena.
Kelly worked 5 1/3 innings before he gave up a double to Anthony Rizzo in the sixth and was replaced by Randy Choate, who escaped the inning on Brian Bogusevic's double-play grounder to second.
Villanueva worked six innings, throwing 90 pitches and allowing two earned runs and four hits. He walked two and struck out four. It was his longest outing since going 8 1/3 innings in a April 23 no-decision at Cincinnati.
"Obviously, he settled down after the first inning and everything got much, much sharper," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.
St. Louis added one run in the seventh against reliever Matt Guerrier, making his fifth Cubs appearance. Guerrier gave up a two-out triple to right to pinch-hitter Rob Johnson, who scored when Carpenter doubled to right.
Cubs reliever Pedro Strop faced runners on first and second in the eighth but worked out of the jam by striking out Matt Adams and David Freese.
Starlin Castro cut the deficit to 3-2 in the eighth with his sixth homer of the year -- a leadoff shot against Cardinals left hander Kevin Siegrist.
Game 3 is set for Saturday as the Cardinals send right-hander Lance Lynn (11-3) against Cubs right-hander Matt Garza (5-1). The series concludes with a Sunday night game before the teams head into the All-Star break.
NOTES: The Cubs signed top draft pick Kris Bryant and the new third baseman took some swings during batting practice in his first official visit to Wrigley Field. The 21-year-old from the University of San Diego was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft. Terms were not disclosed. ... Thursday's 3-0 Cubs victory was only their second shutout win of the season and first since a 7-0 victory over the White Sox on May 27. ... Matheny, ejected after Thursday's 3-0 loss to the Cubs, said he objected to a called third strike on Adams to open the ninth inning, not a catch by Soriano inches from the grass that ended the game. ... Cardinals C Yadier Molina entered Friday's game with a .440 batting average against the Cubs this season, including a home run and a team-high five RBI.