ST. LOUIS (AP)—Cardinals reliever Kyle McClellan got up in the bullpen Friday night to throw what he thought would be a side session.
A few minutes later he was called in to save a game.
McClellan ended up getting the final two outs against the Houston Astros in relief of rookie Jason Motte, who struggled again by giving up two hits to three batters to start the ninth, and St. Louis held on for a 5-3 win.
“I was up first just to throw side because I hadn’t thrown in four days,” McClellan said. “I just wanted to get some work in and watch. Then I had to get right back up and get in there.
“That’s life in the bullpen. We’re constantly doing that, getting ready for this guy and something changes and then we’re getting ready for next inning.”
As a rookie last season, McClellan was credited with one save when he pitched the last three innings of a game. Friday was much different, entering a two-run game with the potential go-ahead run at the plate.”
“It was definitely a different intensity,” he said. “It was a good rush.”
Although McClellan didn’t know it, he was Plan B if Motte struggled, St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa said.
“We had McClellan behind him if we needed him. Some day, (Motte) will look at these and he will learn from them. We’re not at that point yet. Certainly, when you had a couple of guys on, I thought it was time to go get him.”
Ryan Ludwick homered and drove in two runs, and extended his career-best hitting streak to 15 games, including the last 11 of 2008. Skip Schumaker added three hits and Chris Duncan and Yadier Molina also had RBIs for the Cardinals.
Joel Pineiro (1-0) allowed two runs and eight hits over 6 2-3 innings to earn the win.
“The way I finished off in spring training, I wanted to build off of that and start the season like that,” said Pineiro, who pitched six innings of shutout ball against Florida on March 30 in his last time out. “The sinker got the groundball outs.”
“We had plenty of chances,” said Houston manager Cecil Cooper. “We just kind of missed the big hit.”
Mike Hampton (0-1), who made his first regular-season appearance as an Astro since he beat Los Angeles 9-4 on Oct. 3, 1999, gave up three runs on four hits and four walks in five innings.
“I felt good out there,” Hampton said. “They battled me hard out there in every at-bat.”
The Cardinals got to Hampton right away, with Schumaker hitting a leadoff infield single. Hampton then retired Khalil Greene and Albert Pujols, but Ludwick walked to keep the inning alive and Duncan hit a run-scoring single to right.
Some erratic pitching cost Hampton two more runs in the third when he hit Greene to start the inning and then walked Pujols. Greene later came home on Ludwick’s RBI double to right that sent Pujols to third, and Molina hit an RBI fielder’s choice back to the pitcher.
Berkman got the Astros on the board in the sixth with an RBI double, but Schumaker got that run back in the bottom of the frame with an RBI double of his own.
Friday marked the third anniversary of the opening of the new Busch Stadium. The Cardinals are 141-106 at the venue. … One visitor who likes the new Busch is Roy Oswalt, who starts Saturday for Houston. He’s 1-1 with a 1.83 ERA in five career starts, his lowest ERA at any ballpark where he has made at least five starts. … Hampton fell to 10-9 against St. Louis in his 23rd career start vs. the Cardinals.