St. Louis Cardinals: Joel Pineiro Picks Up First Win of Season

Derek CoffeltSenior Analyst IApril 25, 2008

Maybe it's a sign of the times, but the St. Louis starting rotation seems to find ways of battling back and getting wins.

Cardinals’ right-hander Joel Pineiro earned his first win of the season in a victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates, 6-2, on Thursday.

The victory split the two-game series in front of only 9,544 in attendance at PNC Park. However, Pirates’ fans should have some reason to come see their team.

Granted, it was a victory over the Pirates. But this team had been off to a hot start and had been giving everyone in the league problems. Players like Ryan Doumit, Nate McLouth, Xavier Nady, and Adam LaRoche have a combined 12 HR and 48 RBI.

The offensive numbers don't accurately reflect their overall record, but they do have some players to watch out for.

The pitching performance did not go unnoticed as manager Tony LaRussa continued to show his support for Pineiro after his horrendous outing in San Francisco.

"I thought Piniero was outstanding," Cards manager Tony LaRussa said. "From the first pitch to the last pitch, he made so many quality throws that, in a game where there was no scoring until the middle, he gave us a great chance and was just outstanding."

The debacle in San Fran on April 13 in which he gave up six ER and 10 H in three-and-two-thirds innings seemed to be put in the past as Pineiro made his pitches.

"[I moved] the ball in and out, and that's what we had in the game plan—in and out and up and down," Pineiro explained.

"I was able to hit the spots, and that's when good things happen. I had great defense behind me and we were able to score some runs and it was a well-played ballgame."

Even the Pirates had to acknowledge the quality start Pineiro pitched with his location and command of the strike zone.

"He threw a great game," Pirates manager John Russell opined. "He commanded the inside part of the plate and had a nice breaking ball off the outside of the plate. We didn't have a lot of success. He really did a great job of pitching inside, and he wasn't missing.”

“When you pitch a game like that, you're going to have a lot of success,” Russell also said.  “I was very impressed how he continued to pound the inside part of the plate on our left-handers as well as our right-handers."

However, Pineiro was not content with just pitching as he turned an acrobatic defensive gem in the sixth inning on a ground ball by Freddy Sanchez.

The ball was kicked up into the air and caught by Pineiro and thrown over to first for the out. The move impressed everyone including the umpires.

"Everybody that was around there—including the umpire—we had never seen anything like it," La Russa said. "I mean, to do it and then to have the presence of mind to field it and throw the ball accurately. I can't wait to see it again and again—that was very unique."

Albert Pujols did not have to be "the man" on offense.

Key role players Skip Schumaker and Brendan Ryan contributed with an RBI single and RBI double respectively in the sixth inning. The Cardinals even added another run in the top of the ninth for insurance.

The Cardinals now head back to St. Louis on a long home stand in the friendly confines of Busch Stadium.