There are a couple of ways to look at the St. Louis Cardinals' 6-3 defeat by the Philadelphia Phillies tonight in front of 17,120 at Veterans Stadium.

One is that the Cardinals now are just one game ahead of the New York Mets -- who beat the Chicago Cubs, 5-1, at Shea Stadium -- in the National League East race.

The other is that St. Louis just finished an 11-game trip in better position than when it started. And, now, it must play just three of its 16 remaining games on the road.

Manager Whitey Herzog, although less than thrilled about tonight's performance, prefers to look on the brighter side.

"We left home tied," Herzog said. "We're going home after 11 days one game ahead. If we can do that (the rest of the way), we'll be all right."

The Cardinals had won seven in a row before tonight and finished their trip with an 8-3 mark.

There were some individual highlights in what, otherwise, was not a memorable game for the Cardinals.

Vince Coleman led off the fourth inning with a walk, and then stole his 100th base of the year. He became only the third player in National League history to steal 100 or more bases in a year, the others being Maury Wills of the Dodgers, in 1962, and Lou Brock of the Cardinals, in 1974.

"One more digit," Coleman said with a smile.

Coleman moved to third on Willie McGee's groundout, then scored on Tommy Herr's groundout. It was Herr's 100th RBI of the year.

"Nothing great about it, just a ground ball," Herr said, "but they count just the same.

"I never envisioned myself as the type of player that could drive in 100 runs," Herr said. "Those guys are usually bigger than me. To see me standing with those kind of guys is kind of ridiculous. But it's also kind of neat."

The other good news for the Cardinals was the return to the lineup of Jack Clark, who had been out since Aug. 23 (26 games) with a pulled muscle in his rib cage. Clark went two for two, with two walks and two runs scored.

One of the more unhappy Cardinals was pitcher Matt Keough, who was making his first major league start since Sept. 27, 1983, when he was with the Yankees. Keough, who first hurt his arm in 1981, has struggled since in his attempts to regain the form that gave him a spot on the American League all-star team in 1978. Last October, he underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a tear in the rotator cuff muscle. He signed with the Cardinals in April and has spent most of the season with Louisville.

But tonight's shift will not be a fond memory. Keough (0-1) gave up two runs in the second and was lifted with the bases loaded and none out in the third. He was charged with five of the Phillies' six runs and five of their 10 hits.

Leadoff batter Jeff Stone greeted Keough with a hit through the box.

"I guess that was a sign it wasn't going to be a big night for me," Keough said. "I don't think it was a matter of trying too hard. I was pitching 2-1 and 2-0 a lot and you can't do that."

Keough's counterpart, Dave Rucker (3-1), was also making his first league start.