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STL@SD: McClellan tosses six frames of two-run ball

For most of the season, Cardinals right-hander Kyle McClellan has been one of St. Louis' top three pitchers. Even though McClellan hasn't pitched since May 30, he still expects to bring that type of stuff and mentality to the mound in his first start back from the disabled list.

On Wednesday, McClellan (6-2, 3.86 ERA) will make his return from the DL against Washington and Nationals right-hander Livan Hernandez (3-8, 4.15) in the second of a three-game set at Nationals Park. Washington won the opener, 8-6. The Cardinals have dropped four games in a row, while the Nationals enter Wednesday on a four-game winning streak.

"I don't expect anything different. I expect to continue what I, for the most part, was doing," McClellan said. "I don't expect any limitations by any means."

McClellan was placed on the DL with a left hip strain but was only shelved for the minimum 15 days. During his time out, he made adjustments in hopes of taking some pressure off of his hip. The biggest change was a shift from the third-base side of the rubber to the first-base side, and the right-hander said he's been comfortable during bullpen sessions.

"There were a couple different things we were going to try to do, and really I just moved on the rubber and let everything else happen," McClellan said. "I can't worry about this, that and the other. Just moving on the rubber really takes all the thinking out of it, and now I just have to pitch.

"It cuts down on six inches that I'm across my body."

Cardinals skipper Tony La Russa said he thinks McClellan will be fine with the change.

"He's throwing the ball great [in his bullpen sessions], so I think it'll be good," La Russa said.

Although McClellan knows Hernandez will be his pitching counterpart, there is a question about where Hernandez will bat. For the past three games, Washington manger Jim Riggleman has borrowed a page from La Russa's book to try and get his offense going, batting the pitcher eighth.

Prior to Tuesday's win, Riggleman said he might not apply that line of thinking against a right-handed starter like McClellan -- although the pitcher hit eighth Sunday against right-hander Tim Stauffer. So far, the Nationals are undefeated when hitting the pitcher in the eight-hole, and Riggleman said he likes how it's worked.

"If I feel like that's working, that's what we'll do. We scored two runs a game [in four of our last six games] and some of those games our pitcher hit eight, some he hit ninth," Riggleman said. "It didn't seem to have any effect, but it didn't have a negative effect.

"The thing I like about it is [Alex] Cora was hitting ninth and he got on base three times for Jayson Werth. That's a positive, we just didn't turn it into runs. Potentially, I like what it can do, but if it doesn't produce runs, we'll have to rethink it."

Cardinals: Brown earns start
Prior to Tuesday's game, La Russa noted that Nationals right-hander Yunesky Maya had been more effective against right-handed hitters than lefties, so the skipper started Andrew Brown in right field and the six-hole. Brown responded with a 1-for-3 performance and drove in a run before being lifted for a pinch-runner in the fifth inning.

"Wherever they tell me to go, outfield, infield, it doesn't really matter too much to me," Brown said.

Nationals: Hernandez going for 'W'
• Hernandez hasn't earned a victory since April 28, although a good chunk of his losses and no-decisions have been because of a bit of hard luck. Four of his past eight outings have been quality starts, although he struggled on June 9 against San Diego, allowing six runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings. The 36-year-old right-hander is 6-7 with a 4.71 ERA in 19 career starts against St. Louis, with Albert Pujols (13-for-37, .359) and Lance Berkman (10-for-30, .333) having success against him.

• Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman returned from the DL with a double in five at-bats. Zimmerman had been on the shelf since April 9 with an abdominal injury.

Worth noting
• McClellan has never started against Washington, but has made eight relief appearances against the Nationals. Werth is 4-for-5 with a solo home run off of him.

• The Cardinals and Nationals have split their season series with two wins apiece.

• Nationals center fielder Rick Ankiel left Tuesday's game in the second inning with a strained left intercostal (rib cage) muscle. He is day to day. Comments