The Padres (61-53) limped out of St. Louis -- literally and figuratively -- late Thursday on their way to Cincinnati after scoring five runs in their last 27 innings and one run in their last 17 innings at Busch Stadium as they dropped three of four to the Cardinals (53-59).
A day after 13-game loser Kip Wells limited the Padres to one unearned run over seven shutout innings it was starter Joel Pineiro's turn to handcuff San Diego.
The former Red Sox reliever who was banished to the Minor Leagues before resurfacing in St. Louis on July 31 held the Padres to four hits over seven scoreless innings.
"You've got to give him credit, he threw a lot of strikes," San Diego right fielder Rob Mackowiak said of Pineiro. "We hit the ball hard, but right at guys. We have got to do a better job of getting more timely hits."
In their last seven games, the Padres are hitting .125 (6-for-48) with runners in scoring position.
The Padres got doubles from Mackowiak, Scott Hairston and Adrian Gonzalez over the first three innings, but were unable to score a run. That wasn't so much a glaring problem at the time since Pineiro's counterpart, Young, wasn't allowing anything.
Young, who missed two starts while on the disabled list, didn't allow a hit until with two outs in the fourth inning with Scott Rolen bounced a ball to third base where newcomer Morgan Ensberg couldn't make a play on it.
After Young walked Chris Duncan, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina lined a single into right field to score Rolen for the first run of the game.
"A little rusty, but overall not bad," Young said, assessing his outing. "I felt good. I had no problems with my side at all. I came out of hit healthy. That's a big step forward."
Young would be charged with three more runs in the sixth inning, though it was reliever Doug Brocail who yielded a three-run home run to Rick Ankiel, the former pitcher who made his way back to the Major Leagues for the first time since 2004 as an outfielder on Thursday.
The hit was Ankiel's first since April 26, 2000. He received a standing ovation from the sold-out crowd of 42,848 and even appeared on the top step of the dugout for a curtain call at the urging of fans.
"It's a great story," Padres manager Bud Black said of Ankiel's comeback from his well-documented bouts with wildness as a pitcher, particularly in the 2000 playoffs when he walked six and had five wild pitches in a game.
What was also a great story, from the Padres' perspective, was that Young, one of three All-Star pitchers, emerged from his start feeling no effects from the oblique injury. He walked five and struck out five and had a wild pitch that allowed a run to score.
But for the most part, Young looked every bit as dominant as he was before he was hurt, when he led the Major Leagues in ERA (1.82). He threw 105 pitches, 58 for strikes.
"He pitched great ... a bunch of zeros like we've seen all season," Black said. "I thought he threw the ball great after 15 days off. ... That was very encouraging for the ball club."
What wasn't so encouraging was the sight of Hairston clutching his left side as he ran to second base after trying to stretch a single into a double in the sixth inning. Hairston left the game with a strain to his left oblique -- the same exact injury that Young suffered.
With Brian Giles already nursing a tender right ankle and Milton Bradley still not ready to start because of a strained right hamstring, the injury to Hairston -- which could require a trip to the disabled list -- leaves the Padres short-handed for outfielders.
"It's the same exact spot where CY did it," Black said. "That's discouraging."
Hairston had two of San Diego's four hits against the trio of Cardinals pitchers and is one of the few batters in the lineup who is producing. Hairston is hitting .400 (8-for-20) in his first 11 games with the Padres with three home runs and seven RBIs.
In addition to the three doubles off Pineiro and Hairston's single in the sixth inning, the Padres hit the ball hard several times with nothing to show for it, which was essentially par for the course during this series.
"We were on him," Black said of Pineiro. "The first three hits were doubles. It looked as though we might get him, but he hung in there."