The weather was perfect. With clear, sunny skies and a warm 60 degrees at first pitch, Wednesday afternoon was a perfect day for baseball at Busch Stadium. Unfortunately for the 41,137 fans that showed up, the Cardinals were unable to complete the three-game series sweep as St. Louis fell to Cincinnati 4-0.
Cardinals’ starting pitcher Shelby Miller (0-2) opened strong, but did not have his A-game. Miller allowed seven hits and four walks in six innings of work. He gave up three runs, all of which were earned while striking out five.
“It didn’t come out the way we wanted it to,” Miller said. “But, I felt like it was better than the last start, so we are getting somewhere.”
Even with the outcome of the game, Cardinals’ skipper Mike Matheny was not disappointed in Miller’s performance.
“He was better than how the result was overall,” Matheny said. “He had real good control of the fastball early on and I thought it was some of the better breaking balls we have seen as far as the crisp break in them. … We just didn’t get a lot of help.”
On the flip side, Mike Leake (1-1) was on the hill for Cincinnati and he was very effective.
“Leake was good,” Matheny said. “He kept guys off balance all day long. He was throwing just about any pitch at any location he wanted to on any count. You do that with good, late breaking stuff and you are going to give a team fits and that’s what happened out there.”
Three pitches into the game, speedy Reds’ center fielder Billy Hamilton led off the game with a triple, but failed to score after Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto struck out. Jay Bruce ended the inning with a ground out.
Miller retired eight straight before walking Hamilton in the third and allowing a single to Phillips. But like the first inning, Miller got out of the jam unscathed.
“My mental command was better today,” Miller said. “But, at the same time, it got a little shaky at times. I thought I controlled the ball pretty well on both sides of the plate.”
Following a leadoff walk in the fourth, Miller got a quick double play. But, his luck was about to change.
Chris Heisey singled and two pitches later Devon Mesoraco clubbed a 410-foot home run to left center field, giving Cincinnati a 2-0 lead. The Reds extended the lead to 3-0 in the fifth when Hamilton reached base for the third time on a single. Hamilton then swiped his first base of the year and took third on a fly out. He then scored on a short fly ball to right field.
“It was where we wanted it,” Miller said of the pitch to Mesoraco. “He just put a good swing on it. I mean, what can you do?”
Hamilton would reach base again in the ninth, this time on a bunt single. He then stole his second base of the game (and of the season) and scored on Phillips single to right field.
“He is a huge threat when he is on the bases,” Miller said of Hamilton. “I have never really seen somebody run the bases like he has.”
Matheny noted that Hamilton can be a game changer.
“You keep getting (Hamilton) on base and things are going to happen,” Matheny said. “We saw that with his walk and (three) hits. That puts a little different pressure on the pitching, there is no question about it. … He made things happen today and it was the difference in the game.”
As for the Cardinals’ offense, after collecting 22 hits over the first two games of the series, including 13 in the second game, the Redbirds were held to just four hits. St. Louis didn’t have a base runner reach second until Matt Adams’ two-out double in the bottom of the seventh. The Cardinals’ other base hits came from Matt Holliday, Kolten Wong, and Yadier Molina. Jhonny Peralta received the Cardinals’ only walk of the game.
The Cardinals will be off today before hosting the rival Chicago Cubs in a three game series starting Friday night.
NOTES: Cincinnati has just three wins this year, two of them being shutouts. … St. Louis has been shut out twice this year, both coming against the Reds. … Matt Carpenter had his seven-game hitting streak snapped. … Peralta has drawn five walks but has just two hits, both home runs. … Yadier Molina allowed three stolen bases in a game for the sixth time in his career and the first time since Sep. 15, 2012.