It didn't take long for top prospect Billy Hamilton to make his presence felt.
Hamilton and the Cincinnati Reds go for a fourth consecutive win over the slumping St. Louis Cardinals as these NL Central rivals meet again Wednesday night at Great American Ball Park.
After entering as a pinch runner in the seventh inning, Hamilton stole his first base and then came around to score on Todd Frazier's double in Tuesday's 1-0 victory. The 22-year-old outfielder, who set a professional baseball single-season record by stealing 155 bases between Class A and Double-A in 2012, was called up the previous day.
"He (manager Dusty Baker) said, 'I need you to get to second base,'" Hamilton said after his thrilling big league debut. "I was like, 'OK, I got you.'
"That's my job - stealing in important situations. This was a real big situation - a pennant race."
Hamilton's speed could make a big impact down the stretch. He was hitting .256 with six homers and 75 stolen bases in 123 games with Triple-A Louisville before getting called up.
"Watching Billy run - I can watch that every day," Frazier said.
The Reds (78-61) had dropped 10 of 14 to the Cardinals before taking the last three meetings by an 18-2 margin. Cincinnati is now 1 1/2 games behind St. Louis (79-59) for the NL's top wild-card spot and second place in the division.
The Cardinals have hit .176 and been outscored 32-10 in losing five of six. Matt Carpenter singled twice Tuesday, providing both the team's hits.
Infielder Daniel Descalso is mired in a 3-for-32 slump, Jon Jay is 4 for his last 26 and Allen Craig is hitless in his last 10 at-bats.
"We've got an offense that's played a lot of games this year and done extremely well," manager Mike Matheny said. "You can't start trying to reinvent the wheel."
Matheny's club, though, could bounce back against Bronson Arroyo (13-10, 3.66 ERA). The right-hander is 8-16 with a 4.65 ERA in 35 starts versus St. Louis, by far his most losses against any opponent.
Arroyo, 1-8 in his last 13 matchups against the Cardinals, is looking to avoid a fifth consecutive loss in the series after surrendering a season high-tying seven runs in 3 2-3 innings in a 13-3 defeat Aug. 2.
"As good as they can be and as much as they grind at-bats, it's very difficult to kind of keep those guys down," he told MLB's official website. "They got a good ballclub, and they just beat me around the ballpark."
Matt Holliday is 14 for his last 40 with four homers and four doubles versus Arroyo, and Jay is 14 for 34 with four extra-base hits.
Arroyo was also knocked around Friday, giving up six runs in a season-low 3 1-3 innings in a 9-6 loss at Colorado.
"That's just the way it rolls sometimes," said Arroyo, who saw his season-high four-start winning streak snapped.
Arroyo could benefit from getting back home, where he is 9-3 with a 3.20 ERA in 16 outings, 14 of which were quality starts.
The Cardinals counter with Shelby Miller (12-9, 3.13), who is 4-5 with a 4.68 ERA in his last 12 outings. The 22-year-old right-hander labored through 4 1-3 innings in Friday's 5-0 loss at Pittsburgh, surrendering five runs, eight hits and three walks.
While Miller dropped to 2-5 with a 5.80 ERA in his last nine road starts, one of those victories came in Cincinnati. He allowed three runs and struck out eight in five-plus innings opposite Arroyo last month, improving to 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA in two career matchups against the Reds.