Tie game haunts McClellan again in loss

The St. Louis Cardinals fell to San Diego Saturday night in St. Louis as Kyle McClellan faltered.

ST. LOUISKyle McClellan doesn't want to hear questions about his pitching in tie games. He may not want to hear the stats either.

McClellan continued a weird trend Saturday, allowing a three-run homer to former Cardinal Ryan Ludwick to break a 4-4 tie in the ninth inning to propel the Padres to a 8-4 win over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.

The loss dropped the Cardinals to seven games behind the Reds in the National League Central but again magnified a disturbing and confusing stat for McClellan.

McClellan has allowed nine home runs in just 150 at-bats when pitching in a tie game. When pitching with the Cardinals either behind or ahead, the right-hander has allowed 11 home runs in 646 at-bats. That's a difference of just two more home runs in almost 400 more at-bats.

Ludwick's three-run bomb on an 0-1 slider only made those stats look worse. Asked about the subject many times already this season, McClellan became frustrated when the issue was brought up again Saturday.

"Don't bring it up," McClellan said. "It's stupid. I'm not answering that again. I've said it before. I don't pitch any differently in a tie game. I'm sick of hearing about it. It has nothing to do with…I don't go out there and freak out because it's a tie game. It's a stupid question. Every time I pitch, the game is on the line so don't tell me I pitch any different because of that."

Regardless of McClellan's frustration with the question, the stats show he has struggled much more with the game tied. Opponents had a .497 slugging percentage against McClellan before Saturday with the game tied while just a .318 slugging percentage when either ahead or behind.

McClellan pitched a scoreless eighth after the Cardinals scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to tie the game at 4. But he couldn't escape his second inning unscathed, allowing a lead-off single to David Eckstein to start the ninth. After a groundout by Miguel Tejada, McClellan intentionally walked the dangerous Adrian Gonzalez to put runners at first and second for Ludwick.

Traded to the Padres on July 31, Ludwick made his old team pay with a three-run blast that just cleared the fence in left to put the Padres up 7-4. Stairs followed with a solo shot to make it 8-4, ending the Cardinals short two-game losing streak and all but ending their playoff hopes.

"He was out of gas," said manager Tony La Russa. "Just too many pitches and he lost a little bit. He became vulnerable and you have to be absolutely perfect and you miss a little bit.  I don't want to take things away from the hitters, Ryan had a good swing obviously, but he was…we really didn't want to push him that hard but that's what we had to do."

Asked if he was feeling tired in the second inning, McClellan said, "Whether I was or not doesn't matter. I still have a job to do. Everybody out there is tired."

With the Cardinals seemingly needing to win almost every game to have a shot at the playoffs, Saturday's loss was a tough blow. The Cardinals led 2-1 in the seventh before Fernando Salas allowed three runs to give San Diego a 4-2 lead.

The Cardinals tied the game in the bottom of the seventh and would have likely gone ahead had Colby Rasmus not slipped while rounding third base. The Padres handed the Cardinals eight walks but just one came around to score. The Cardinals left 11 runners on base and went 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

But they still had a chance in the ninth until Ludwick delivered against his former team.

"I was trying to throw it off the plate and I just didn't get it there," McClellan said. "That's a pitch that if he knows what you're throwing, that's a strength of his and you're trying to get it out of the zone and I just didn't get it there."

Said Ludwick: "To be able to do it against your former team is nice, but I'm definitely not trying to show anyone up over there. Everyone over there is a class act and it just happened. I happened to hit it against my former team.

"They've got a good ballclub. I don't think it has to do with me. They've hit a rough stretch. We hit a rough stretch over here, too. We lost 10 in a row. It's baseball. It happens."

 

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