AP Sports Writer
ST. LOUIS (AP) - Shelby Miller was much improved in his second start. St. Louis Cardinals hitters gave the right-hander no support.
"My command was better," the right-hander said after the Cincinnati Reds avoided a three-game sweep with a 4-0 victory on Wednesday. "I got a little streaky at times but I felt like I controlled the ball pretty well on both sides of the plate.
"Overall, I felt much stronger."
Billy Hamilton had three hits and his first two steals, and scored easily after tagging up on a shallow outfield pop fly to support eight scoreless innings from Mike Leake.
The Cardinals were shut out for the second time, both by Cincinnati, and managed just four hits. They're 5-4 heading into a day off before starting a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs on Friday.
"There's a couple of games where if we had a couple of things go our way, we could be even better," manager Mike Matheny said. "But I do believe that there's obviously more in our tank offensively.
"We've done a lot of things right, we've done things wrong. For now, we'll take the day off."
Leake (1-1) allowed four hits and a walk and Devin Mesoraco hit a two-run home run for the Reds, who lost the first two for their ninth series in their last 10 in St. Louis. They're 2-4 against the Cardinals, their NL Central rival, and wrapped up a 2-4 trip.
Miller (0-2) allowed his fourth homer in two starts and faced trouble most of his six innings, but held the Reds hitless in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position. In his first start, Miller surrendered three home runs and allowed five runs in 5 1-3 innings.
"One bad pitch," Miller said, referring to the Mesoraco homer. "But it wasn't really a bad pitch. It was where I wanted it, he just put a good swing on it.
"What are you going to do?"
Matheny said he's seldom seen a Miller with a better breaking ball. But Leake was better.
"He kept guys off-balance all day long," the manager said. "He was throwing just about any pitch in any location that he wanted to, in any count.
"You do that with good late-breaking stuff, you're going to give teams fits and that's what happened to us."
Mesoraco hit his first homer in the fourth after doubling twice Tuesday in his first start after coming off the 15-day disabled list.
Hamilton entered batting .091 with two hits and seven strikeouts in 22 at-bats and left town batting .192. He reached safely his first three trips beginning with a triple to open the game when left fielder Matt Holliday missed on a diving catch in the gap.
After singling to start the fifth he put on a show with his legs, stealing second without a throw, going to third on a flyout to shallow right and scoring easily to beat Jon Jay's' relay on Bruce's pop fly to even shallower right and put the Reds up 3-0.
Hamilton bunted for a hit in the ninth against Pat Neshek and stole second, then scored without a throw on Brandon Phillips' one-out single to make it 4-0.
Leake retired nine of the first 10 hitters and benefited from three double-play balls, two of them in a run of five straight three-up, three-down innings from the second through sixth. Leake was 0-2 in three starts last year against St. Louis while allowing 15 earned runs in 16 1-3 innings and beat them for the first time since Aug. 25, 2012.
Notes: Slumping cleanup man Allen Craig (.097) was not in the lineup for the Cardinals and the Reds gave Zack Cozart (.038) a day off. Together, those two are 4 for 57. ... Both teams have a day off Thursday. The Reds open a six-game homestand Friday with Johnny Cueto (0-1, 1.93) opposing the Rays and David Price (1-0, 4.05). Joe Kelly (1-0, 1.69) will face the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija (0-1, 1.29). ... Miller was a 15-game winner last year as a rookie, going 10-3 with a 1.75 ERA at home.
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