ST. LOUIS -- Amir Garrett dazzled in his Major League debut, and Joey Votto delivered another go-ahead RBI hit to lift the Reds to a 2-0 victory over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Friday.
Garrett, the organization's top-ranked pitching prospect, became the first Reds pitcher since 1970 to throw at least six scoreless innings in his first big league appearance. He did it with little effort, too. The Cardinals, who took 27 at-bats with a runner in scoring position in their recent three-game series against Chicago, could not advance a runner to second base until Matt Carpenter advanced on defensive indifference in the ninth. They were held to two singles against Garrett.
"My teammates were awesome today," Garrett said. "They were behind me the whole way, from playing in the field to in the dugout when I thought I wasn't going to be able to breathe. Guys were like 'Just breathe. You're going to be fine, just pitch.' I owe a lot to them. They helped me cope with everything today."
Cardinals starter Mike Leake was nearly as good, but Billy Hamilton's speed and Votto's bat ended his shutout bid in the sixth inning. Hamilton singled, swiped second and scored on Votto's one-out double to put the Reds ahead en route to their third straight victory. It marked the second time in three days that Votto delivered the go-ahead RBI in a shutout Reds victory.
Leake, who finished eight innings only once in 30 starts last season, did so on 92 pitches Friday. He scattered six hits and struck out just as many against his former team. The Reds capitalized upon his departure, though, as Scott Schebler took reliever Kevin Siegrist deep for a ninth-inning insurance run.
"It's a shame to lose a great start like that," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Leake was terrific, very much like we've seen so far this spring. He put the ball exactly where he wanted to. Unfortunately, we just couldn't get anything going offensively."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED On the scoreboard: Votto offered at a first-pitch sinker from Leake in the sixth and laced it into right field to drive home Hamilton. It was Votto's first hit with a runner in scoring position this season and first run-scoring hit off Leake in 14 career at-bats. An opportunity for the Reds to tack on a bit of insurance was snuffed out when Votto was then caught trying to steal third.
"He likes that bottom-left quadrant," said Leake, referencing the location of the sinker he threw to Votto. "It was in there for him."
Long gone: Schebler foiled the Cardinals' desired left-on-left matchup when he took Siegrist deep with two out in the ninth. According to Statcast™, the solo shot traveled 388 feet after coming off Schebler's bat with an exit velocity of 104.4 mph. It was the seventh home run Siegrist has served up to a left-handed hitter in 257 at-bats.
"To give ourselves a two-run lead in that situation is always huge," Schebler said.
"That was big. For whatever reason, that Cardinals just don't go away. It doesn't matter if you get up by a couple or two, three, four, five runs. They always seem to make a push, and we're aware of that." --Reds manager Bryan Price on Schebler's homer providing a two-run lead.
"He was good, man. He looked good. The fastball had some good sink on it. The slider, it was crazy because he would throw some that would actually slide and some that would go straight. It was definitely a big task for us to try and figure out. -- Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong on Garrett
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Hamilton has been a nemesis of Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina since his 2013 debut in the big leagues. Hamilton stole second base after a leadoff single in the sixth inning and is 24-for-26 in steal attempts against Molina lifetime. His 24 steals are the most by anyone in Molina's career.
GARRETT'S ONE MISTAKE WAS BUNTING
In the top of the fifth inning with runners on the corners and one out, Garrett missed badly with a bunt attempt against Leake. It was costly at the time with a scoreless tie as Molina fired a throw to third base, where Zack Cozart was thrown out trying to dive back.
"It was a safety squeeze. Zack followed [Jhonny] Peralta down the third base line so it wasn't a suicide squeeze," Price said. "Molina made a great throw. It was a good play on their part and we got a little bit overaggressive."
"Oh yeah man, I really messed that up," Garrett said. "I was really upset with myself. I should have gotten that down."
WHAT'S NEXT Reds: When the series continues at 2:15 p.m. ET Saturday, Bronson Arroyo will make his comeback start -- his first in the Majors in 2 ½ seasons when he was with Arizona in 2014. Arroyo, who pitched for Cincinnati from 2006-13, has worked his way back from elbow and shoulder surgeries to earn a spot on the team in Spring Training.
Cardinals:Michael Wacha, who is 6-1 with a 3.07 ERA in 14 career appearances against the Reds, will make his season debut against them in Saturday's 1:15 p.m. CT game. The start will follow a nine-day layoff for Wacha, who threw four innings in his final Grapefruit League tuneup.