Pineiro has rocky debut in Cards' loss

Pineiro has rocky debut in Cards' loss

SAN FRANCISCO -- Perhaps there's really a reason why Spring Training lasts six whole weeks.

Though Joel Pineiro insisted that he was fully ready to go, he didn't look at all sharp in his return from the disabled list as the Cardinals lost to the Giants, 7-4, at AT&T Park on Sunday afternoon.

Pineiro was hit hard and often, allowing 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings. He was charged with six runs, all earned, in his 2008 debut. He missed the first two weeks of the regular season as he recuperated from a strain in the lat muscle beneath his right shoulder.

"I felt like I was ready to go," Pineiro said. "I'm not going to find that excuse and say I pitched like this because I should have had one more [rehabilitation] start. No. I told them I was ready to go."

Though Pineiro wasn't at his best, he still could have had a better result with more help from his defense and perhaps a little luck.

A five-run fourth inning would have been held to two Giants runs save for a ball that third baseman Rico Washington should have fielded. Brian Bocock hit a chopper to the left side that hit the glove of Washington, who was making his first Major League start. The ball skipped away and into left field, and Bocock was credited with a double on a generous scoring call.

"I feel like I should make every play," Washington said. "It was kind of an in-between hop and I didn't come up with it. Sometimes you have tough plays where it doesn't work out the way you expect it to."

Had Washington made the play, it would have been the third out of the inning. Instead, the next four Giants added base hits as San Francisco stretched a 3-2 lead to a 6-2 cushion. Pineiro didn't make it out of the inning.

"It could happen to anybody at any time," Pineiro said of the missed play. "I didn't pick up my teammates right there. That's when all the other little hits started falling, broken-bat hits and the blooper over second. And I couldn't execute the pitch when I really needed to, trying to pick up my defense."

The man Pineiro displaced, Brad Thompson, pitched 2 1/3 innings of relief without a hit or run, though Thompson did walk three batters. That allowed St. Louis to get back in the game, and in fact the Cardinals got the go-ahead run to the plate in the eighth and the tying run to bat in the ninth.

However, after the first two batters reached base in the ninth, the Cardinals' two best hopes for a big hit watched called third strikes. Ryan Ludwick took a pitch he believed was low for ball four, and Chris Duncan took a pitch that appeared to be outside.

"I've got no problem with the way we went about it," manager Tony La Russa said. "Disappointing result, and a couple of tough third strikes in the ninth. I don't have a good look at it. Any time you see the catcher move the glove to the strike zone after he catches it, it makes you a little suspicious."

Both Ludwick and Duncan protested the calls, and teammates were looking at the video of both pitches when they entered the clubhouse.

"Two different opinions," Ludwick said. "I thought it was down. He thought it was a strike. What are you going to do?

The Cardinals finished a seven-game road trip at 4-3. St. Louis leads the National League Central by one-half game over Milwaukee, which begins a three-game series at Busch Stadium on Tuesday.

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