PHOENIX -- So this is what momentum feels like.
For the first time in 2011, the Cardinals have won back-to-back games, both in convincing fashion. Kyle McClellan turned in six strong innings and drove in two runs as St. Louis cruised to an 8-2 win over the D-backs at Chase Field on Monday night.
The Cards have scored 14 runs in two games -- more than in their previous five games combined. They amassed five extra-base hits on Monday after totaling 15 in the season's first nine games and raised their team slugging percentage by 37 points in one night.
And so good feeling reigned in the visitors' clubhouse at Chase Field. The music thumped -- including, appropriately, Kanye West's "Power" -- and smiles and jokes abounded. A 4-6 record won't get you to the playoffs, but it feels an awful lot better than the 2-6 mark that the Redbirds held after losing the first two games of their weekend series against the Giants.
"It's big," said McClellan. "I felt like coming out of the San Francisco series, a couple things go our way and we could have come out of there winning three games. It's still early, but I feel like we're definitely going in the right direction. We're waiting for some stuff to start going our way, because early on it seemed like it didn't."
Momentum, the baseball cliche goes, is just tomorrow's starting pitcher. But on Monday it was tonight's starter, as McClellan did everything that could be asked of him. He recorded his first big league win as a starter, making it two quality starts in as many tries. He battled occasionally shaky command but never gave in, reversing his fortunes at what had been an unfriendly ballpark to him over the years.
The D-backs had chances, but for the most part couldn't cash them in.
"[McClellan] was mixing his pitches up a little better with runners in scoring position," Arizona outfielder Justin Upton said. "That's usually what pitchers do and we just couldn't solve him tonight. He had a good breaking pitch and he used it to his benefit."
And then there was McClellan's offense, which was every bit as welcome. He picked up the second and third hits of his big league career, the first extra-base hit and the first and second RBIs. Even as Albert Pujols continues to search for his form, the Cardinals managed another quality night at the plate thanks in large part to McClellan.
"I got lucky a couple times," McClellan said. "I got fastballs up to hit. I got a couple runs scored today for our team and kept their pitcher out there a little bit, made him throw more pitches. You don't just want to give up on an at-bat."
For good measure, Lance Berkman added his first two homers as a Cardinal. Seven different Cardinals had a run, an RBI, or both. Ten had at least one hit.
None did more than McClellan, though. In the third inning, Yadier Molina led off with a single and McClellan doubled him home. With two outs in the fourth, Skip Schumaker laced an RBI double that stretched the Cards' lead to 2-0, and the D-backs chose to walk Molina in order to pitch to McClellan. He made them pay, poking a run-scoring single.
Ryan Theriot added another RBI single, and even though the inning ended with a Pujols flyout to right, the Cardinals were on their way. Berkman went deep in the seventh and added a two-run shot in the ninth. Jon Jay followed with a pinch-homer, and the Cards had their highest run total since Sept. 26, 2010.
"I think the last two games we've played well," Berkman said. "We've swung the bats well and gotten results. I think that's what this offense is capable of doing. It's just a matter of time before guys start hitting. We've got to keep it rolling."
The Cardinals' bullpen turned in three effective innings to make the lead stand up, with four relievers combining for three innings of one-run ball.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.