Cubs unable to solve Pineiro's puzzle

Cubs unable to solve Pineiro's puzzle

ST. LOUIS -- Ted Lilly snuck a peek at Joel Pineiro on the clubhouse television between innings Tuesday night. It was quite a show.

"Obviously, the first thing you have to say is the way he pitched, he deserved to win," Lilly said of the St. Louis right-hander, who threw an efficient three-hit shutout in the Cardinals' 3-0 win over the Cubs.

Pineiro (5-3) notched his fourth career shutout and matched his career low in hits allowed in a game during a quickly paced two hours and five minutes. He didn't leave many of his 92 pitches over the plate, which is why the Cubs' batters took an aggressive approach.

"The very few [that were over the plate] all 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 have to give the guy a lot of credit."

Colby Rasmus hit a two-run homer to back Pineiro's complete game and hand Lilly (5-3) the loss. The Cubs' lefty served up four hits, including Rasmus' blast, and walked three over seven innings.

"I felt like I came in second place," Lilly said. "I had an opportunity to try to keep up, which would've been a lot of fun. It's an opportunity to do something pretty special if you get two guys going at it like that and putting up zeros nine innings, matching each other. That's what I would've liked to have done.

"I feel like ultimately, that's what you're supposed to do as a starting pitcher is do whatever you can to give up fewer runs than the other guy. Unfortunately, I had my hands full."

"He gave up three runs in seven innings, and that's very competitive and gives you a chance to win a baseball game," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said of Lilly. "The way Pineiro pitched tonight, it wasn't good enough."

The Cubs didn't make Pineiro work too hard. The right-hander needed just four pitches to retire the side in the fourth, and Derrek Lee and Milton Bradley were out on a total of three pitches to start the fifth. Mike Fontenot swung at the second pitch of his at-bat in the fifth, but did end an 0-for-17 funk with a double.

"We had to," Lee said of the aggressive approach. "He wasn't throwing any balls. You'd like to work a pitcher more, but we would've been 0-2 [in the count] every time. He was throwing strikes."

Before Tuesday's game, Piniella was talking about how some of the Cubs needed to boost their batting averages. Bradley is batting .188, Fontenot is hitting .207 and Geovany Soto enters Wednesday at .198.

"Look, let me tell you this, we haven't been killing the ball off too many people," Piniella said. "Give this young man credit, he pitched a darn good ballgame. He didn't walk people, he got ahead in the count, he did his job. But let me tell you this, we haven't been brutalizing too many pitchers, I can tell you that. Give the guy his credit, give him his due, and hopefully we'll swing the bats better tomorrow."

Lilly struggled with command in the first, as he walked Cardinals leadoff man Brendan Ryan, who eventually scored on Yadier Molina's single. He also walked two batters in the third.

"I don't know what that was," Lilly said of the walks. "I don't like it. It wasn't a matter of attacking the zone. I was missing with a lot of fastballs early."

Ryan set up Rasmus' homer as well when he singled with two outs in the fifth and Rasmus followed with his fourth home run to make it 3-0. Rasmus entered the game 2-for-25 against left-handers. Albert Pujols, the National League RBI leader, followed Rasmus.

"The fact that Pujols was on deck didn't have any effect on my pitch selection," Lilly said. "I felt like I could make a good pitch there. I shook Geo off to get to that pitch, and not too often do I say this, but I'm second-guessing my pitch selection there.

"I think I had more margin for error if I would've gone to a breaking ball in that situation. If you really locate the pitch, chances are you're going to get the results you want. A mistake with a fastball there is not as good as a mistake with your breaking ball."

Pujols entered the game batting .321 against Lilly, but he was kept in check. The lefty got him to pop up with one on in the first, fly out to center to strand two in the third and ground out to end the fifth.

The Cubs were stymied as well.

"It was a pitchers' day today," Lee said. "Hopefully, it's a hitters' day tomorrow."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.