Pineiro's three-hitter puts end to Cards' three-game slide

ST. LOUIS -- Joel Pineiro was so locked in, 28 Cubs batters saw a total of 28 balls.

Pineiro pitched a three-hitter for his first shutout in six seasons and first complete game since 2006 as the St. Louis Cardinals snapped a three-game slide with a 3-0 victory over Chicago on Tuesday night.

"It was a masterpiece against a club that's been as hot as anybody," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said.

Colby Rasmus hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning for the Cardinals, who rebounded after getting swept in a three-game series by the Brewers. St. Louis has won only three of 10 overall, but expects to get pitcher Chris Carpenter and outfielder Rick Ankiel back for Wednesday's game.

Pineiro retired 23 of his final 24 batters, interrupted only by Mike Fontenot's two-out double in the fifth, and recorded 17 outs on grounders for his fourth career shutout. The game lasted 2 hours, 5 minutes, the fastest for the Cardinals since Sept. 9, 2006, at Arizona.

Pineiro emphasized his sinker against a team he figured would come out swinging. He threw 21 first-pitch strikes and had only two three-ball counts.

"They're a very aggressive team, they want to try to knock the pitcher out," Pineiro said. "You make your pitches down in the zone, they'll be on the ground like they were today."

Losing pitcher Ted Lilly watched much of Pineiro's handiwork on a clubhouse TV.

"He didn't leave too many balls out over the plate, and the very few that were had real good movement on them," Lilly said. "When a guy throws like that, it's going to be tough.

"Even if you don't want to, you've got to give the guy credit."

Left-handed hitters had been only 4 for 27 against Lilly (5-3) this season before Rasmus, a rookie, hit his fourth homer on a 1-2 fastball to put St. Louis ahead. Lilly entered the game limiting all hitters to six hits in 83 at-bats with two strikes.

Lilly said he shook off catcher Geovany Soto because he wanted to throw a fastball against Rasmus, whose last three hits are all two-run homers.

"Not often do I say this, but I'm second-guessing my pitch selection there," Lilly said. "I think I had more margin for error if I would have gone to a breaking ball."

The Cardinals also scored in the first on Yadier Molina's two-out RBI single.

The Cubs have lost two straight after winning five in a row and were shut out for the third time.

Pineiro (5-3) faced one batter more than the minimum and needed only 92 pitches to compile his 10th career complete game and first since May 1, 2006, with Seattle at Minnesota. The three-hitter matched his career best with the Mariners on July 26, 2003, against the Rangers, also his last shutout.

Pineiro, who struck out five with no walks, was helped early by catcher Molina's pickoff of Alfonso Soriano in the first and a double-play ball in the second.

Pineiro was 4-0 with a 3.76 ERA in April but 0-3 with 6.30 ERA in his first three May starts. He said he didn't change a thing for the Cubs.

"I went through my same routine, I did everything the same," Pineiro said. "What can I say? I threw the sinker I've been throwing all year and got good results."

Lilly, who won his previous three starts, allowed three runs and four hits in seven innings for his first loss in six starts at 4-year-old Busch Stadium.

"I felt like I came in second place," Lilly said. "I had an opportunity to try and keep up with him, which would have been a lot of fun."

Game notes
The Cubs have scored four or more runs in all 21 wins, and three or fewer in 13 of their 16 losses. ... Derrek Lee, who singled in the second, is 5 for 40 on the road. ... The Cardinals batted the pitcher eighth for the second straight game and fifth time this season. La Russa said he likes to do it whenever the team is struggling. ... Molina has 29 career pickoffs, three this year. ... The Cardinals have two complete games, with Kyle Lohse beating the Astros on April 12.