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Leake, Hamilton carry Reds to 4-0 win

The SportsXchange

ST. LOUIS -- Mike Leake was masterful on the mound for the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday at Busch Stadium.

But rookie center fielder Billy Hamilton shared a starring role with Leake after giving the St. Louis Cardinals a nine-inning exhibition of his blinding speed.

Going 3-for-4 with two steals, Hamilton created two runs that helped Cincinnati wrap up a sorely needed 4-0 win.

After going 0-for-12 in last week's series against St. Louis with seven strikeouts, Hamilton did not bat during the weekend at the New York Mets after jamming his left middle finger on a stolen base attempt in a pinch-running role on Friday night.

Back in the lineup on Monday, Hamilton led off by turning what would be a single for almost everyone else into a routine double, a sign of the series to come. He went 5-for-14 with a walk and did not strike out once.

"I'm starting to have fun," Hamilton said. "I'm getting all the pressure off myself."

And putting it on the Cardinals from the get-go, when he led off with a triple past diving left fielder Matt Holliday. Although pitcher Shelby Miller stranded Hamilton at third with two strikeouts and a grounder, Hamilton got to him in the fifth.

Slashing a one-out single to left, Hamilton got a huge jump and stole second without a throw from All-Star catcher Yadier Molina. Hamilton moved to third on a shallow fly ball to right fielder Jon Jay.

After first baseman Joey Votto walked, right fielder Jay Bruce popped a high, short fly to Jay. Although the ball appeared to be maybe 30 feet past the infield, Hamilton tagged up anyway and beat Jay's throw with a slide.

Hamilton said after the game that he scored on an even shallower fly ball in the Class A California League in 2012, when he swiped a pro baseball record 155 bases -- 104 for Bakersfield and 51 at double-A Pensacola.

"(Third base coach) Steve Smith said, 'We're going to see just how fast you are.' I feel like any time the ball gets out of the infield in the air, I have a chance to score," Hamilton said.

"We saw what he can do today when he gets on base," St. Louis third baseman Matt Carpenter said of Hamilton. "I've never seen anyone score on a sacrifice fly to basically the second baseman."

In the ninth, Hamilton bunted for a hit, beat Molina's bullet throw to second for a steal and cruised home on an RBI single to right by second baseman Brandon Phillips.

By then, Leake had pretty much wrapped things up. Using his sinker to induce a whopping 17 ground-ball outs, six coming on three double plays, Leake (1-1) allowed just four hits in eight innings, walking one and fanning three.

Entering the game, Leake was 2-4 with a 5.96 ERA in his career against the Cardinals.

"First things first, he had all of his arsenal in the zone," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "When he had a 1-0 or 2-0 count, he was able to pitch himself back with good, quality pitches. He understood that (plate umpire) Dale (Scott) was calling that low strike today and he really milked that."

Reliever Manny Parra finished the shutout with a 1-2-3 ninth as Cincinnati (3-6) completed its six-game trip at 2-4. Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco went 2-for-4, clubbing a two-run homer in the fourth to initiate the scoring.

Miller (0-2) went six innings, allowing seven hits and three runs with three walks and five strikeouts. A two-out double in the seventh by first baseman Matt Adams marked the only time St. Louis (5-4) got a man to scoring position.

With Hamilton's improved bat geting him on base to use his fast feet, the Reds did not have those issues.

"That's kind of the game we've been waiting for," Price said.

NOTES: Cincinnati RHP Mat Latos (right elbow) was scratched from a rehab start for triple-A Louisville in Columbus on Tuesday night. Latos, who started for double-A Pensacola on Thursday night, will continue to receive daily evaluation. ... St. Louis gave RF Allen Craig the day off after he went 0-for-5 on Tuesday night, dropping his average to .097 (3-for-31). ... Reds LHP Sean Marshall was scheduled to throw an inning on Wednesday at extended spring training in Goodyear, Arlz. Marshall has been hampered all spring by a sore shoulder.
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