ST. LOUIS — Mike Leake's arm and Billy Hamilton's legs were too much for the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday.
Leake fired eight scoreless innings and Hamilton reached base five times, scoring two runs and stealing two bases, to spark the Cincinnati Reds to a 4-0 victory over the Cardinals before 41,137 at Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals had four hits against Leake (1-1), three of them singles, and had just one runner advance into scoring position.
"I've had a chance to face him quite a bit and that's probably the best I've seen him in terms of command," Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter said of Leake. "He didn't leave hardly any balls over the plate. He kept the ball down, had his sinker working and his cutter working. He was as good as I've seen him."
Kolten Wong, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina had harmless singles against Leake. Matt Adams had a double in the seventh, but was stranded when Molina struck out on a 3-2 pitch.
The Reds, who avoided a three-game sweep, also turned three double plays behind Leake, two coming off the bat of Jon Jay.
And after controlling Hamilton in their first five meetings of the season, the Cardinals witnessed the kind of force he is on the bases.
"He's so fast," said Molina, St. Louis' catcher who is 0-for-4 trying to throw out Hamilton on stolen-base attempts. "He's dangerous every time he gets on the bases."
Hamilton's speed was no more dazzling than in the fifth.
With the Reds already leading 2-0 on Devin Mesoraco's two-run homer in the fourth against Shelby Miller (0-2), Hamilton led off with a single and stole second without a play when Miller was too deliberate pitching to Brandon Phillips.
Hamilton advanced to third on Phillips' short fly to right, and after Joey Votto walked, he scored on Jay Bruce's sacrifice fly that traveled no more than 30 feet onto the outfield grass.
Right fielder Jay called off second baseman Wong, but was flat-footed when he made the catch and had no chance at Hamilton, whose slide easily beat Jay's throw to Molina.
"That was the first time I've seen that," Molina said of what could prove to be the shortest sacrifice fly in the major leagues this year.
Hamilton's speed certainly is no secret; he stole 395 bases in five minor-league seasons, including 155 in 2012. But seeing it first-hand is much more impressive than watching it from afar.
"We got a taste of his skill set," Carpenter said. "He hit a triple, stole a couple of bases, laid down a bunt when I was about 15 steps in from third. Not many guys do that. Also, scoring on a sac fly basically to second base. He's definitely a talented player."
Hamilton, a switch-hitter, said he wanted to put the Reds on his shoulders after series-opening losses of 5-3 and 7-5.
"Guys were pressing a little bit and I told them, 'I'm going to make something happen for you. If you get the chance to put the ball in play, I've got your back,'" he said. "Shoot, yes, this is a big relief. I'm starting to get that fun back into it, starting to be myself."
Miller survived six innings and was charged with three runs (earned) on seven hits. He walked three and struck out five.
Miller escaped a first-inning jam when Hamilton led off with a triple, but he ran into trouble with two outs in the fourth when Chris Heisey singled and Mesoraco hit his first home run, a 410-foot drive to the bleachers in left-center on a 1-0 pitch.
They were the only runs the Reds needed, although they added two more on Bruce's sacrifice fly and Phillips' RBI single in the ninth against Pat Neshek that plated Hamilton.
"Leake was good," Matheny said. "He kept guys off-balanced all day long. He was throwing just about any pitch in any location he wanted to --in any count. When you do that with late breaking stuff, you're going to give a team fits, and that's what happened to us."