Miller solid but Cards can't complete sweep of Reds

Shelby Miller gives up three runs over six innings to give the Cardinals a chance to sweep away the Reds, but the St. Louis offense fails to offer any support in the cause.

Shelby Miller tossed his first quality start of the season Wednesday against the Reds.

Jeff Roberson / AP

ST. LOUIS -- Giving up three runs in six innings is considered a pretty good day at the office, unless you're Shelby Miller and your office is Busch Stadium.

Miller came into Wednesday afternoon's start with a 10-3 record, 1.61 ERA and .191 batting average allowed in 18 outings at Busch Stadium. But he was just off enough against Cincinnati. Miller gave up a two-run homer to Devin Mesoraco in the fourth and Billy Hamilton generated a run with his speed in the fifth as the Reds managed to avoid a sweep by beating the Cardinals 4-0.

3 UP

-- Success against the Reds. They couldn't pull off their first home sweep of Cincinnati since 2008, but the Cardinals managed yet another series win at Busch Stadium over their division rivals. St. Louis has won nine of its past 10 home series against the Reds, and has lost only two home series to Cincinnati since newest Busch Stadium opened in 2006.

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-- Matt Carpenter at third base. GM John Mozeliak's offseason assessment that the Peter Bourjos-David Freese deal would improve the Cardinals defensively is proving accurate, especially at third (and second) base. Carpenter took hits away from Mike Leake and Billy Hamilton by stopping hard shots at the hot corner. The play on Hamilton saved a run and ended a potential rally in the sixth.

-- Time off. Don't look for any Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Thursday. It's their first day off at home of the season and their last off day of the month. The Cardinals don't have another full day off at home until May 19.

"Off days are off days," Mike Matheny said. "We do a lot of talking about balance, and if we don't encourage it and create an atmosphere where they can have some balance, then they're never going to have it. Our families, coaching staff as well, make huge sacrifices with this game. You get a day when you can spend it with them, last thing they need to do is show up here."

3 DOWN

-- The offense. Reds right-hander Mike Leake came into this start with a 5.96 ERA in nine outings against St. Louis, but either he figured out something or the Cardinals wanted to get a head start on their day off. With his fastball topping out in the low 90-mph range, the Cardinals managed only four hits and had only one base runner reach as far as second base. The Cardinals did not put two runners on in a single inning, either.

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-- Stopping the running game. Surely, the Reds know you don't steal on Yadier Molina, don't they? Well, they went 3 for 3 as Hamilton stole second twice and Chris Heisey stole it once, with Hamilton's first swipe resulting in a run that otherwise doesn't score. The first two steals weren't on Molina as much as Miller, though. Hamilton had such a big jump on his first steal that Molina didn't even attempt a throw. No play was made on Heisey, either, as Molina came up ready to throw but lost his grip on the ball.

-- Allen Craig. Mired in a 3-for-31 start, the Cardinals' cleanup hitter was given the day off so he could spend extra time in the batting cage and get a two-day break. Craig is seeing the ball OK -- evidenced by a fairly low strikeout total of six -- but is not hitting many line drives. Twenty-two of the 28 outs he's made have come on grounders.

Said Matheny: "If (a slump) happens in June, July, you just says it's a rut. Everything is a little more magnified when you start the season. Everybody wants to have a good start. He'll be fine. But you just go through it, figure it out and he'll be right where he's always been soon."

You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at stanmcneal@gmail.com.