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Cards 3, Braves 2: Timely hitting missing

POSTED: April 28, 2009 12:48 a.m.
Erik S. Lesser/The Associated Press

Cardinals starting pitcher Joel Pineiro, left, slides in safe at home ahead of the throw to Braves catcher David Ross in the seventh inning Monday at Turner Field in Atlanta.

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ATLANTA — Joel Pineiro is usually content just letting his defense make plays.

He can get a strikeout when he needs it, too.

Pineiro won again for St. Louis, equaling the best start of his career, and Rick Ankiel drove in a pair of runs as the Cardinals defeated the light-hitting Atlanta Braves 3-2 Monday night.

Pineiro (4-0) went 6Ã innings, allowing seven hits and a pair of runs while walking none. He also won his first four decisions for Seattle in 2001.

"You trust your defense," the right-hander said. "That’s why I throw that sinker no matter what time in the count, so they can hit it at somebody."

He got 12 of his 20 outs on grounders, with shortstop Brendan Ryan making a couple of especially nifty plays. Ryan stopped one on his knees, popping up to throw out David Ross, and pulled off a double play with a simultaneous throw as he was stepping on second.

"You get that ball on the ground, good things are going to happen," Pineiro said.

He waited until his final pitch to get his first strikeout, and it was a big one. Pineiro whiffed Brandon Jones with the potential tying run at second base in the seventh, then headed to the showers. Chris Perez struck out Ross to end the threat.

"He did well keeping the ball down," Atlanta’s Jeff Francoeur said of Pineiro. "He’s not going to strike a lot of guys out, but he keeps it low and gets ground balls."

Kyle McClellan escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth, and Ryan Franklin worked a perfect ninth for his sixth save in as many chances.

Ankiel had a pair of two-out, run-scoring singles, one in the second inning to push the Cardinals to a 2-0 lead and another in the seventh for a 3-1 edge.

Pineiro also had a hand in the offense, drawing a walk from Peter Moylan and coming around to score what proved to be a crucial run on Ankiel’s second clutch hit.

"Now that I think of it, it was a key at-bat," Pineiro said.

St. Louis (14-6) assured itself of keeping at least a share of the NL’s best record, after coming into the night tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Cardinals won for the sixth time in seven games.

The Braves have struggled to produce offense with a lineup that’s missing Brian McCann and Garret Anderson, both on the disabled list. Since starting the season 5-1, they have scored three runs or fewer in nine of their last 13 games.

The fans of Atlanta are hardly impressed. The crowd of 16,379 was the fourth turnout of less than 20,000 in seven games at Turner Field this season.

"We’re going 1-2-3 way too many times," Francoeur said. "We’re not putting any pressure on the other team to make pitches."

No one has been hurt more than Jair Jurrjens (2-2). He’s 0-2 over his last three starts, despite giving up just three runs in 20 1-3 innings. He bounced back from a shaky start to go six solid innings against the Cardinals, allowing two runs and six hits.

"I just try to give my team a chance to win," Jurrjens said. "That’s all I can control."

Casey Kotchman, taking over the cleanup spot for McCann, had two doubles and three hits but flied out on a high pitch to end the eighth with the bases full.Notes: St. Louis C Yadier Molina extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a single in the third. ... Jurrjens threw 68 pitches over the first three innings but needed only 31 to get through the next three. ... The Braves said McCann will report to Myrtle Beach on Tuesday to test out a new set of contact lenses in a couple of Class-A rehab games. The catcher went on the DL with blurred vision, and spent much of Monday working with an eye specialist.



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