ST. LOUIS (AP)Merrill Kelly threw seven shutout innings and Ketel Marte and Nick Ahmed each homered in the eighth inning, lifting the Arizona Diamondbacks 2-0 over the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday.

”I felt like it was going to be a race to two or three runs in this game and the first team to get there would win,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. ”The day started and stopped with Merrill. He was fantastic. You shut out the St. Louis Cardinals, you’re doing something.”

Marte led off the eighth by taking a 1-1 curveball off Miles Mikolas (1-1) into the right field bullpen for his first homer of the season. It snapped his 24-game homerless streak dating back to Oct. 2, 2021.

”Things haven’t gone the way I’ve plan but I was able to do my job there in that situation,” Marte said through a translator. ”There’s a lot of baseball left and I have a lot of confidence in myself.”

One out later, Ahmed sent a 1-1 fastball into the left field bullpen for his second homer.

Kelly (2-1) pitched seven scoreless innings, holding the Cardinals to two hits with four strikeouts and one hit batter.

”It was fun. Any time the other guy is putting up zeroes, you want to try and go out and match him,” Kelly said. ”You want to pitch as well if not better than the other guy.”

He’s allowed four total earned runs in his first five starts.

”The amount of balls I’ve feel like I’ve seen the other team hit hard off him is like none,” Ahmed said. ”No one is taking good swings off him.”

Noe Ramirez pitched a scoreless eighth. Ian Kennedy gave up a leadoff walk before retiring the side in the ninth to pick up his first save and preserve the shutout.

”Ian’s been out there four out of five now,” Luvullo said. ”He made pitches when he had to. It was a little bit of a gut check for him but he got through it. He did a great job.”

Mikolas pitched 7 1/3 innings, allowing four hits with seven strikeouts and no walks in his fifth start of 2022.

”He did his job, I didn’t do mine,” St. Louis manager Oliver Marmol said of Mikolas. ”He was really good through seven. He was at 91 pitches and we’ve got a pretty damn good bullpen and we should have gotten into it. Miles was super effective. It was an impressive job.”

Before giving up the home runs, Mikolas had a 19-inning scoreless streak. He has allowed two runs or fewer in all five starts.

”You know, you just try and forget about that last inning,” Mikolas said. ”I’ll try and focus on what I did well. When you miss spots, they’re more likely to put a good swing on the ball.”

TAKE A SEAT

Cardinals 3B Nolan Arenado served his single-game suspension Saturday on the day the team gave away his bobblehead. He had appealed the two-game suspension for his role in the bench-clearing brawl against the New York Mets on Wednesday and had it reduced to one game.

Arenado is expected to be back in the lineup for the Cardinals on Sunday’s series finale against Arizona. He’s off to a solid start with five home runs, 17 RBI, and a batting average of .375 in 19 games.

Rookie Brendan Donovan started at third base. Donovan made his MLB debut Monday against the Mets.

UNSUCCESSFUL CHALLENGE

St. Louis lost a challenge in the sixth inning. Paul Goldschmidt hit a slow roller to short and first baseman Christian Walker stretched to catch the throw from Ahmed. Umpire Chris Conroy made the call that stood. The play saved a run, as Edmundo Sosa was hit by a pitch, stole second and went to third on a fly out.

”I can’t let Goldy get a hit there,” Ahmed said. ”A weird check swing. Got to go all out and bare hand it to first. Walker made a great pick. It was close but I felt like he was out. I didn’t think they would challenge it. I’m glad it stayed.”

CATCH ME IF YOU CAN

The Cardinals lead the majors with 22 stolen bases in 23 attempts after stealing two Saturday.

Their 95.65% success rate is their best over the first 20 games since caught stealing was made an official stat in 1951.

Harrison Bader swiped second in the second inning, giving him a National League-leading six; Bader had nine stolen bases in 2021.

The lone blemish this season came when Albert Pujols attempted to steal third at Milwaukee on April 14 and was caught by Brewers pitcher Brandon Woodruff.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Diamondbacks: RHP Mark Melancon (undisclosed) is expected to be out until at least May 6. RHP J.B. Wendelken (undisclosed) is expected to be out until at least May 9.

Cardinals: RHP Drew VerHagen (right hip) threw a successful bullpen Saturday morning. VerHagen said it went ”great.” A rehab assignment remains a possibility.

UP NEXT

Diamondbacks: RHP Zach Davies (1-1) will make his 15th career start at St. Louis. In his last three starts against Cardinals, he is 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA. He is 3-5 overall against St. Louis.

Cardinals: RHP Jordan Hicks (1-2) took a Dominic Smith comebacker off his right wrist in the second inning in his last start against the Mets and pitched to three batters in the third before exiting. He will be making his fourth career appearance and first start against the Diamondbacks.

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