Right-hander Kyle McClellan's starting debut in the major leagues was a success on many counts Tuesday, although he wasn't the winning pitcher in the Cardinals' 3-2 victory over the Pirates at Busch Stadium.
McClellan, a 26-year-old St. Louisan, had made 202 consecutive relief appearances for the Cardinals in three previous seasons, but he was moved out of the bullpen to take injured right-hander Adam Wainwright's rotation spot. He survived Lyle Overbay's first-inning two-run homer and held Pittsburgh to two runs over six innings, striking out seven and throwing 60 strikes out of 95 pitches.
"He got a breaking ball up for a two-run homer, but he had the mental toughness to put that behind him and crank out all those zeros. That was very impressive," manager Tony La Russa said. "I thought he handled himself really well.
"He's a very good major league pitcher."
The Cardinals, still playing without left fielder Matt Holliday, who is recovering from an appendectomy, scored three runs or fewer for the fifth straight game. That hadn't happened to a Cardinals team at the start of a season since 1919.
But at least the table was set. The top two hitters in the lineup, shortstop Ryan Theriot and center fielder Colby Rasmus, each reached base three times. And first baseman Albert Pujols, still hitting only .167, delivered with a sacrifice fly and a run-scoring single.
"If we do a great job of creating opportunities, then we'll find a way to score our share of runs," La Russa said. "Albert isn't himself at the plate, but he cranks out two very tough at-bats."
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