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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Pineiro stifles Reds

Hurler notches second win, yielding one hit over seven frames
By Matthew Leach /
ST. LOUIS -- Skip Schumaker has come a long way in three years, since he was an overwhelmed rookie getting almost no playing time on an experienced 100-win team. He's also come a long way in a few months -- since the Cardinals left him off their list of names for this year's All-Star ballot.

That means that over the offseason, Schumaker didn't project as a regular in the club's estimation. Now he's one of St. Louis' most indispensable players. Coming back from a one-day rest, Schumaker went 4-for-5 and kick-started two big innings as the Cardinals beat the Reds, 7-2, at Busch Stadium on Tuesday night.

A 1-for-12 weekend slump knocked Schumaker out of the starting lineup for a day, as well as dropping his batting average below .300. Four hits in his return ensured that Schumaker won't see the bench again any time soon.

And that's fine with him. Schumaker isn't worried about the All-Star ballot.

"Me?" he asked incredulously when the topic was brought up. "No. No, man. I'm just trying to put some good at-bats together and track the lineup every day. That's the last thing I look forward to. ... I didn't even know about it."

The Cardinals jumped all over rookie sensation Johnny Cueto, who just a few weeks ago dominated the powerful Diamondbacks. They did it thanks in large part to Schumaker and new No. 2 hitter Adam Kennedy -- and with a rare quiet night by Albert Pujols. In fairness, they also did it with some help from a porous Reds defense.

Sporting a new lineup configuration, the Redbirds offense worked the way it's supposed to. The guys at the top of the order, Schumaker and Kennedy, got on base. The guys in the middle of the order, Rick Ankiel and Troy Glaus, drove them in. All on a night when Pujols went 0-for-4 -- though he extended his on-base streak to 28 games with an eighth-inning walk.

"What Skip and Adam did was quality," said manager Tony La Russa. "You want to put Albert's bat in his hand, put guys on base. Troy had a couple big hits. Those first two crooked numbers, that's a piece of work against that young man."

In recent weeks, stranded runners had been a big problem for St. Louis. The Redbirds again left 11 men on base on Tuesday, but when you score seven, it's not such a big deal.

The Cardinals tagged Cueto for three runs in the first and four in the second, each time following basically the same pattern.

Both times, Schumaker and Kennedy reached base consecutively, and both times, Ankiel and Glaus delivered run-scoring hits. The final three Cardinals runs scored when Glaus laced a two-run double to left-center and came all the way around to score when Adam Dunn muffed a throw on the play.

"Didn't look effortless to me," Schumaker said. "When he was down in the tunnel looking like he needed some oxygen, it didn't look effortless there either. We were laughing quite a bit."

It was more than enough for Pineiro (2-2), whose final line probably overstated how well he pitched. Pineiro allowed only one hit over seven scoreless innings, though he walked four against three strikeouts. He allowed quite a bit of hard contact, but again and again his defense helped him out.

"It was a case where he was throwing strikes," said Reds manager Dusty Baker. "When you throw strikes, good things happen. We hit some balls hard, extremely hard, but they had us played perfectly."

A Cincinnati baserunning blunder also helped Pineiro out. With runners on second and third and one out in the first inning, Brandon Phillips grounded to third base. Corey Patterson, going on contact, was caught in a rundown.

Jeff Keppinger appeared to have a line on third base, but instead retreated and was caught in a second rundown that ended the inning.

"If you can make a pitch and get a ground ball to third, you've got a chance to get at least the out, and then the other guys were aggressive and we were able to double them off," La Russa said.

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