CINCINNATI -- Not that there was much doubt anyway, but Kyle McClellan is pretty sure to have a better day on Sunday than he did on Saturday.
McClellan was dinged for three home runs as he took his first loss as a starter on Saturday afternoon, lasting six innings in the Cardinals' 7-3 defeat to the Reds at Great American Ball Park. McClellan allowed at least one baserunner in every inning, while opposite number Johnny Cueto was brilliant until a strange eighth inning.
Still, McClellan at least has something to which he can look forward. Immediately after he finished pitching, McClellan and his father hit the highway back to St. Louis. McClellan's wife, Bridget, is scheduled to give birth to the couple's first child on Sunday.
For McClellan's teammates, though, the best consolation may simply have been that they beat the rain. With inclement weather descending upon the Cincinnati area in the evening, the game moved quickly, and the two clubs avoided delays.
Other than that, it was a long day for the visitors. Nemesis Brandon Phillips hit a leadoff homer in the second inning to put Cincinnati ahead, and the Reds never looked back. Ramon Hernandez added solo homers of his own in the third and fifth to stretch the lead, drilling the first pitch of the at-bat out of the ballpark both times.
"The pitch to Phillips, I don't think was that bad of a pitch that he hit out," said Cardinals acting manager Joe Pettini. "The two first-pitch homers to Hernandez were just left up. Probably mistakes. But it's going to happen. We ran into a tough guy. Normally if he gives up three home runs, at that point we have a few runs too. But we just had a tough day against Cueto."
Phillips also added an RBI single and a sacrifice fly. He showboated a bit on his home run, just another point in the long-running rivalry between the two clubs.
"As soon as he hit it, I saw him do a little stuff," McClellan said from the road via cellphone. "It just makes you appreciate guys like Scott Rolen even more. Everybody is a little bit different and they do their own thing. To be honest with you, I can't really be upset about it, because he [hit it extremely well]. It's one of those that you can't really say anything. He hit it pretty far."
And all the while another nemesis, Cueto, kept the Cardinals quiet. He consistently threw strike after strike, with excellent late movement, baffling the Cards throughout the early innings. Tyler Greene's third-inning single was the Cards' only hit until the seventh.
"I saw predominantly fastballs," said Lance Berkman, who went 0-for-3. "It seemed like he had good life on the ball, and he moved it around."
The Cards swung aggressively at Cueto, but they had little choice. He was locating both of his fastballs and offspeed pitches well, so when he got ahead in the count, he became even tougher to handle.
"He was going for outs," said Reds manager Dusty Baker. "It didn't matter how he got them or what they looked like. He was getting outs and getting ahead of most of the hitters and he had electric stuff today."
St. Louis started to threaten a bit in the seventh, when Matt Holliday doubled, but still it took some defensive follies to get the Cardinals in the game. Back-to-back errors in the eighth by the usually sure-handed Paul Janish and Rolen put two men on for Jon Jay, who deposited a three-run homer into the left-field bleachers to make it close.
It wasn't enough, though, thanks to the four runs against McClellan and three more against the St. Louis bullpen. McClellan came right at Reds hitters, and they were ready. Despite allowing 10 baserunners and facing 27 batters, he threw only 94 pitches, an indication that Cincinnati batters came out swinging.
"In that ballpark, you get the ball in the air, you're going to be in trouble," McClellan said. "I feel like that team, when they play at that park, they do a good job of getting the ball in the air. I'm going to be aggressive. I'm going to try to throw strikes early in the count. I did it, and I got burned on a couple of them that weren't good enough pitches."
St. Louis fell out of first place for the first time since April 20. The Reds now lead the Redbirds by one-half game in the National League Central. The Cardinals lost their first series since April 8-10 at San Francisco. They had won or split nine consecutive series before coming to Cincinnati.
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.