ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Except for one inning, Andy Benes looked like the guy who won 18 games last year.

The St. Louis Cardinals pitcher shrugged off a shaky third recovering to beat the Philadelphia Phillies 6-2 Thursday.

The third was all trouble. He had two wild pitches, one with the bases loaded, hit a batter and gave up a double to the pitcher, as Philadelphia took a 2-0 lead.

``I'll tell you what, after I kicked the trash can and threw my bat, fired my helmet and threw my glove and tried to tear my hat into 10 pieces, I was able to take a deep breath and go forward,'' Benes joked.

``I have to remember it's only my third start and it was a lot better today than it has been.''

Benes missed most of the first month recuperating from a rib-cage muscle injury suffered in spring training. He lasted five innings in his first start and six in the second.

``Andy just had that one little strange inning,'' manager Tony La Russa said. ``After that he was outstanding. So it looks like he's rounding into form.''

Benes (2-1) raised his career mark against the Phillies to 13-4, better than any other team. He struck out five and walked two in eight innings.

Gary Gaetti had a three-run double and Ray Lankford continued a hot start with a hit and two RBIs for the Cardinals, who scored 20 runs in the two-game sweep. St. Louis has won nine of the last 12 to climb to a game below .500 at 16-17 after a franchise-worst 0-6 start.

``It doesn't seem like it's been fast,'' La Russa said. ``This is already May, so we haven't gotten there quickly, but we're plodding along.''

The Cards have won eight of their last nine at Busch Stadium.

The Phillies lost for the ninth time in 12 games and also lost starting pitcher Matt Beech, who sprained his right ankle running the bases in the fifth inning and had to be helped off the field.

``I think it took something out of us,'' Derrick May said. ``He was keeping us in the game. When he got hurt, it was a big blow.''

Gaetti's double capped a four-run sixth that broke a 2-2 tie and gave him six RBIs in the last two games. He had a three-run home run on Wednesday after entering that game 0-for-12.

Lankford, who missed most of the first month recovering from offseason rotator cuff surgery, had a run-scoring groundout in the fourth and an RBI single in the sixth and is batting .415 with five home runs and 14 RBIs in 15 games.

``I dreamed about it, believe me,'' Lankford said. ``The thing I wanted to do most of all was jump into the lineup and not miss a beat.''

He had three hits, including a grand slam, in Wednesday's 14-7 victory.

Beech, a rookie who was called up on Sunday when Mark Portugal went on the disabled list, worked four innings and allowed one run on one hit. He doubled to start the fifth and advanced to third on a routine groundout by Ruben Amaro, but slipped off the bag.

Preliminary X-rays showed nothing beyond a sprain. The Phillies did not know how long Beech would be out.

``It's not like he tore a ligament,'' manager Terry Francona said. ``He'll be back and he's going to be good when he comes back.''

The Cardinals beat up on his replacement, Mike Mimbs (0-3). Mike Difelice tied it 2-2 with his first career home run in the fifth and the Cardinals sent 10 batters to the plate in the sixth.

Notes: Rico Brogna doubled in the second to extend his hitting streak to 11 games. ... Kevin Stocker had been 0-for-19 for his career against Benes before he singled and scored in the third. ... The Phillies rested Mickey Morandini, who has a .405 career average against Benes. He pinch-hit in the ninth and flied out. ... John Mabry's career-high 11-game hitting streak ended as he went 0-for-4.