By HAL McCOY
Amir Garrett not only resembles an exclamation point, but the tall, gangly lefthander pitched with exclamation point emphasis Friday night in his major league debut.
Standing on the mound in the hostile environment of sold out Busch Stadium, Garrett pitched like a salty veteran against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Garrett gagged the Cardinals for six innings, no runs and two hits, and turned a one-run lead over to the bullpen.
AND THE NEW AND IMPROVED bullpen held the fort as the Reds scored a 2-0 victory.
Garrett is the first Cincinnati Reds pitcher to pitch six scoreless innings in a debut performance since Wayne Simpson in 1970. Simpson, though, threw a complete-game shutout against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
As Fox broadcaster Chris Welsh pointed out, when Price picked up the bullpen phone last year he was dialing 9-1-1. So far this year it has been a wildly different story.
Michael Lorenzen pitched a 1-2-3 seventh and Raisel Iglesias pitched the final two innings, retiring the first five before issuing a walk with two outs in the ninth. But he ended it by striking out Stephen Piscotty.
In four games this season, the bullpen has given up one run 15 1/3 innings.
GARRETT NEEDED ONLY 78 pitches (50 strikes) to wade through the Cardinals lineup. But Reds manager Bryan Price decided six innings and 78 pitches were enough for the 24-year-old 6-foot-4, 230-pound former St. John’s University basketball player.
No Cardinals baserunner reached second base against Garrett.
Garrett walked the first major league batter he faced, Dexter Fowler, then retired seven straight before opposing pitcher Mike Leake singled with one out in the third.
The only other Cardinals hit with a two-out single by Kolten Wong with two outs in the fifth.
GARRETT HAD TO BE ON his best behavior because his pitching opponent, former Reds No. 1 draft pick Mike Leake, was on target, too.
Leake pitched eight innings and gave up one run and six hits while striking out six.
Leake matched zeros with Garrett for five innings before the Reds broke through for a run in the sixth. Billy Hamilton led the sixth with a single and stole second — his 24th steal in 26 attempts with Yadier Molina catching.
IT STAYED 1-0 UNTIL there were two outs in the top of the ninth when Scott Schebler hit a home run to left field, the opposite field, against lefthander Kevin Siegrist. It was Schebler’s second hit of the season and gave Iglesias an extra breath for the bottom of the ninth.
Offensively, the Reds produced seven hits, two each by Billy Hamilton and Zack Cozart, who is hitting .538 over his first four games this season.
There were, though, a couple of blips on the screen. Garrett missed a safety squeeze bunt attempt and Cozart was picked off third base. And after doubled home the game’s first run, he tried to steal third with two outs and was caught.
But it was a night to remember for Garrett.