Again, Pineiro didn't need a strikeout pitch. He didn't fan anybody in eight innings when he beat New York last week, and he fanned just one Monday. But he got 13 groundball outs, including a couple of spectacular plays by backup SS Brendan Ryan.
With Pineiro trusting his sinkerball and working quickly, the Cardinals' defense, which has made 20 errors in 20 games, generally has been at its best when he pitches.
"Great defense once again," said Pineiro. "I try to keep the ball moving as quickly as I can. Hopefully, the guys don't get on their heels."
Even though Pineiro had thrown just 76 pitches, he was pulled with two outs in the seventh as the Cardinals had a one-run lead and the Braves had a runner at second. The hitter was David Ross, who had doubled home a run and been robbed of another hit by Ryan. Righty Chris Perez entered the game.
"I just thought it was a better match-up with Perez instead of Ross seeing (Pineiro) for a third time," said manager Tony La Russa.
Perez fanned Ross on a slider to end the inning.
In the eighth, right-hander Kyle McClellan walked third baseman Chipper Jones to fill the bases with two out but then got first baseman Casey Kotchman on a fly to right. In the ninth, righty Ryan Franklin ripped off his sixth straight save with a perfect inning.
CARDINALS 3, BRAVES 2: The Cardinals, the top hitting team in the league and the top clutch hitting team in the league, delivered three two-out singles to score all their runs. Two were knocked in by CF Rick Ankiel, who was not an exceptional hitter with men in scoring position either last year or until just recently this year. The other came off the bat of LF Chris Duncan.
NOTES AND QUOTES
• At 14-6, the Cardinals are off to their best start for 20 games since 2005, when they had the same record. That year’s team won 100 games and the National League Central Division title.
• The Cardinals had committed an error in 11 of their 12 previous games but they were flawless Monday, featuring three good plays by SS Brendan Ryan, and C Yadier Molina picking off his second runner of the season at first base. “I know (the defense) is a legitimate subject because of the errors,” said manager Tony La Rsusa, “but day in and day out we make more plays than we’re missing.”
• C Yadier Molina, getting a leg up on what would be his first All-Star Game nomination, raised his hitting streak to 10 games with two hits, including his second home run. Molina is hitting .405 (15 for 37) in the streak and is up to .344 overall.
• The Cardinals’ 13-5 start before Sunday was their best since 2005 when they also were 13-5. At home, the Cardinals are 10-3 and they’re 3-3 on the road. Thirteen of their next 17 games are away from home.
• RHP Joel Pineiro, a career .082 hitter before this season, worked out a walk for the third straight game, and he came around to score a run. He scored on Chris Duncan’s single in the seventh to make the score 3-1.
• SS Brendan Ryan gave SS Khalil Greene, who had committed five of the team’s 20 errors, a night off. “The shortstop had a great day,” said manager Tony La Russa. “You’ve got to give him special credit. If he misses any of (his good plays), who knows what the outcome is?” The acrobatic Ryan praised the pitchers and was reluctant to talk about his defense other than to say, “I want to make every play—everything I can get to.”
• RHP Kyle Lohse, who jammed his right knee on a fielding play last week, tested it by running in the outfield Monday and said he should be able to start Tuesday night in Atlanta. “Everything felt good—better than I thought it would,” he said.