One outing after committing three errors and a wild pitch in a loss, St. Louis tripped again in getting blanked by Kennedy and four relievers.
"They are a great team, an all-around complete team,'' Kennedy said. "You know you have your hands full with that lineup.''
But the fist bumps were restricted to the Padres' dugout.
Kennedy went six-plus innings, allowing seven hits and a walk. He struck out a season-high 10.
"He was lights out and he was focused beyond belief,'' Padres interim manager Pat Murphy said. "It was as good a performance as I've seen all year from anybody.''
Kennedy had a 2-5 lifetime mark against St. Louis, and that included a loss last month at Busch Stadium.
But there was nothing flat about Kennedy's outing at Petco Park on Saturday. His 10 punchouts against a contact-happy team caught everyone's attention.
"They don't strike out a whole lot,'' Kennedy said. "I wasn't going for that, just trying to execute, and when you execute, you get some swings and misses here and there.''
St. Louis had single baserunners in the second, third and fourth innings but couldn't break through. It squandered a key chance in the fifth after a one-out double by Tommy Pham, followed by starting pitcher Carlos Martinez's double.
But with runners in scoring position, Kennedy reached back and struck out Matt Carpenter on a pitch brushing the outside corner. Carpenter didn't think so and was ejected for arguing with umpire Chris Segal. Then Kennedy struck out Stephen Piscotty to end the threat.
Kennedy started the seventh inning but didn't last long. Brandon Moss opened with a double before Pham's single, and the go-ahead runs were aboard. Three relievers barged through the bullpen gate and they delivered a no-nonsense effort.
"In that situation, it looks like they are definitely going to tie the game,'' Murphy said. "But it was just great pitching by those three guys. They made pitches.''
"It was a turning point in the game and the series ,'' Kelley said. "Basically, we all had a guy to get out, and fortunately, we all did it . Then we came in and you saw how we responded . There was a lot of energy in the dugout, for sure .''
The Padres scored seven runs in the bottom of the inning and left the Cardinals wondering what had happened.
"It took some wind out of our sails, for sure ,'' Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of the Padres' relief corps. "We've been on the other side of that, and it's like your back is up against the wall, and we make some great pitches, make some great plays and get out of a situation that looks like it's inevitable for a run or two to come through, and you feed off that. That's exactly what happened to us. ''
What's happening in San Diego? The Padres have won five straight, nine of 11 and are within 6 1/2 games of the National League West-leading Dodgers. Plus, they're the only NL team with a winning record against the Cardinals this season, at 4-2.
"If we keep playing well, we are going to make a run at it,'' Kennedy said.
Of late, teams don't want to get in the Padres' way -- however you want to label it.
Jay Paris is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.