Coming into Wednesday afternoon’s matchup with the St. Louis Cardinals, the Cincinnati Reds weren’t getting much out of ultra-fast center fielder Billy Hamilton. Hamilton was just 2-of-22 in his first seven games, with seven strikeouts and a 0 percent success rate on steals, which I hear from some very credible sources is concerning to the Reds organization (that was sarcasm).
On Wednesday afternoon, Hamilton’s skills were on full display. His stat line itself was impressive (3-for-4 with two runs scored, a triple and two stolen bases) , but it doesn’t do justice to his impact on the 4-0 Reds victory.
Hamilton tripled to left-center field to open the game, but was stranded at third. In the third inning, he walked, but was once again stranded, this time at second. In the fifth inning, the Reds finally capitalized on Hamilton’s presence on the basepaths, but there’s really only one person to thank for that. After snagging his first base of the year, Hamilton tagged up on a very shallow fly to right-center field, making it to third easily. Jay Bruce then stepped to the plate, and was credited for what should be one of the most memorable RBI of his career.
Bruce lifted a pop up to short, right field, no more than 15-20 feet from the edge of the infield, which was caught by Jon Jay in right field. Can you guess what happens next?
If you guessed that Hamilton scored despite a near-perfect throw, you were correct (and you get absolutely nothing for it; I led you into that one). In the ninth inning, Hamilton once again proved the power of his legs, reaching on a bunt single down the third base line. After stealing his second base of the afternoon (which boosted that oh-so important April success rate to 67 percent), Hamilton scored on a single to right field.
The only blemish on Hamilton’s afternoon was a sixth-inning groundout, a scorcher to third that would have given him another extra-base hit and possibly two more RBIs, but was snatched up my Matt Carpenter. Of the three NL Central powerhouses, the Red played by far the least small ball last season. With Hamilton seemingly up in the big leagues for good this year, that might change.
If you struggle to find reasons to watch baseball, I just gave you one: Billy the Kid. To be honest, I don’t know if anyone’s actually calling him that yet, but they should. He has fastest legs in the Central (okay, the nickname would be better if he played out West).