ST. LOUIS (AP) - Kyle McClellan butted heads with Mother Nature on Thursday night and the St. Louis Cardinals right-hander came out on the losing end.
McClellan threw five strong innings but struggled after a 50-minute rain delay in the Diamondbacks' 4-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.
Arizona managed just one run and three hits over the first five innings. But McClellan surrendered a two-run homer to Justin Upton on his sixth pitch after the weather stoppage and the homer put Arizona in front 3-0.
``I was cruising along there for a while,' McClellan said. ``The rain delay - it just came at a bad time.'
St. Louis manager Tony La Russa felt McClellan handled the delay as well as possible. He had no regrets about sending him back out there.
``I think he did a good job of staying warm,' La Russa said. ``He looked pretty much the same.'
Arizona manager Kirk Gibson was surprised McClellan returned to the game.
``He probably wasn't as sharp as he was earlier in the game,' Gibson said.
Arizona lefty Joe Saunders threw five scoreless innings to give the Diamondbacks their fourth win in the last six games. They remain two games behind first-place San Francisco in the NL West.
St. Louis, which lost for the fourth time in six games, fell into a first-place tie with Milwaukee in the NL Central.
Saunders allowed one hit, struck out one and walked four. He was removed from the game after the rain delay in the sixth inning.
Upton said his ability to remain focused during the time off helped at the plate.
``We were able to stay in the mode and not come in here (in the locker room) and sit down,' he said. ``We stayed in the cage area and the dugout so we wouldn't get too laid back.'
That strategy worked perfectly.
``He just crushed it,' Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said of the 406-foot blast. ``It really got out in a hurry.'
Saunders (6-7), who threw 78 pitches, gave up a leadoff double to Ryan Theriot in the first and then walked David Freese.
But the lefty quickly righted himself. He induced Albert Pujols to fly out before getting Matt Holliday to ground into an inning-ending double play.
Saunders never allowed a runner to get to second base over his final four innings. He retired nine in a row at one point.
``I made some good pitches against some good hitters,' Saunders said. ``And the defense was awesome. They turned in some big double plays.'
Saunders, like McClellan, wanted to stay in the game after the delay. But Gibson convinced him otherwise.
``I definitely would have loved to have gone back in,' he said. ``It was my first career rain delay and it was probably better to err on the side of caution.'
McClellan (6-6) has not won since May 19, covering his last six starts. He gave up four runs, three earned, and six hits in seven innings. He did not appear as strong after the delay.
``If I didn't feel like I could do it,' McClellan said. ``I wouldn't have gone out there. They asked me to give them an honest opinion and I felt good warming up and I felt like I was fine.'
Arizona infielder Ryan Roberts drew a walk to lead off the sixth before rain halted play. Stephen Drew flied out before Upton's came through with the biggest blow of the night.
St. Louis climbed within 3-1 on a run-scoring double by Holliday in the sixth. Reliever Micah Owings, who came into the game after the stoppage, then struck out Lance Berkman and got Yadier Molina to fly out.
Roberts added an RBI single in the seventh to make it 4-1.
David Hernandez pitched the ninth and picked up his sixth save in seven opportunities. Alberto Castillo, Yhency Brazoban and Owings followed Saunders to the mound. The five pitchers combined to allow three hits.
Arizona pushed across an unearned run in the second. Chris Young led off with a single and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Sean Burroughs. Young, moved to third on a throwing error when Freese tossed a grounder wide at second base in an effort to get Young on a one-out grounder by Xavier Nady. Young has hit safely in nine of his last 11 road games.
``The whole game was not a standout game,' La Russa said. ``Not much to say.'
Pujols, the three-time league MVP, was 0 for 3 in his second game since returning from the disabled list with a fractured left wrist. He is 1 for 9 over the two games.
The start of the game was delayed 66 minutes by rain.
NOTES: Pujols grounded into his NL-leading 19th double play in the fourth inning. ... Theriot committed his 15th error of the season in the third inning booting a ground ball by Saunders. ... Berkman has four homers and 10 RBIs in four games against Arizona this season, the most RBIs by any player against the Diamondbacks. ... Arizona has had 70 games decided by four runs or less this season. They are 39-31 in those games. ... The Diamondbacks are 4-7 in their last 11 games in St. Louis.
The Associated Press News Service
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