Hamilton on base? All hell breaks loose

CINCINNATI — This is the carnage left behind by the Cincinnati Reds when Billyball is at full throttle.

On Friday night Billy Hamilton was the prototype of what the Reds want from him and what they see in those spindly, wind-milling legs as a leadoff hitter.

Hamilton was on base five straight times and scored four of the team’s 13 runs in a 13-3 win over the Giants.

That, though, just skims the surface.

Elias Sports Bureau says that Hamilton is the first Major League batter to have three hits, a triple, two RBI, two walks, fours runs and two stolen bases in a game since Boston’s John Valentin did it at Toronto on June 13, 1995.

How do they find this stuff?

AND THAT TRIPLE? IT COULD HAVE been, nearly was, an inside the park home run. When Hamilton hit the ball that skidded to the wall in left center, Scooter Gennett was on first base. He had to hesitate to make certain the ball wasn’t caught. Hamilton nearly overtook Gennett as they circled the bases.

A play on Hamilton at the plate would have been close, but third base coach Billy Hatcher wisely stopped Hamilton.

“I was watching Hatcher and not looking back at the ball and I trust whatever he does,” said Hamilton. “That’s why he’s there and if he says stop you stop. He made the right decision.

“I looked ahead as I ran the bases and saw Scooter,” Hamilton said with a laugh “But if I had been running hard right out of the box it wouldn’t have been close. I would have had the inside the park home run. When I hit it I thought it was hit higher and harder and the outfielder would have a play on it.”

Hamilton paused for a moment and then said, “But I will get an inside the park home run. I will get one.”

MANAGER BRYAN PRICE, of course, knows what every other team knows, what every fan knows, what Hamilton himself knows: “What a difference when he gets on base,” said Price. “He gets on base five times with some walks, some hits, an extra base hit, he scores four runs. It is an impact on our offense when he is on base, no doubt about that.

“Our other hitters get better pitches to hit, he is a distraction and not just to the pitcher but to the catcher, the first baseman, second baseman and shortstop as well,” Price added. “It opens up holes for our offense with the need for other teams to keep close to the bags to try to stop Billy.”

That showed Friday night when the Reds had 16 hits, many of them seeing-eye ground balls between the infielders. “He poses a lot of problems and it sure is a benefit when he is getting on base.”

MEANWHILE, DOWN AT THE bottom of the order, in the seventh spot, second baseman Jose Peraza is making some noise. And that noise has come since manager Bryan Price moved him from second in the order to seventh because he was struggling — .215 after 15 games.

Price decided to take the pressure off and flip-flopped shortsto Zack Cozart, who was batting seventh and hitting .400.

Peraza had three hits Friday night and drove in four runs. He began Saturday’s game on a nine-game hitting streak during which he is hitting .359, pushing his season’s average to .265.

WHEN SOMEBODY TRIED TO give Peraza a pass for his faltering start by asking Price if he was hitting the ball hard but hitting into bad luck, Price wouldn’t bite.

“I wouldn’t say that,” said Price. “I don’t think he was swinging the bat nearly the way he is capable and the way he was swinging last year. There was not a ton of hard contact.

“I never felt he was hitting into bad luck,” Price added. “I felt he was swinging at a lot of pitches that were not good pitches to hit, both early and late in the at bat. He has just now started to settle down and he is a really good player and he is going to be an excellent hitter.”

And since Peraza was moved to seventh Price says, “He is looking a lot more like the guy I think he is now than he was earlier in the season when he was not comfortable at the plate.”

BASED ON WHAT HE HAS done so far out of the bullpen, 1-0 with a 1.10 earned run average and five saves in 11 games over 16 1/3 innings, is Raisel Iglesias now one of the more dominant relief pitchers in baseball?

“I would say that is premature,” said Price. “I think he is exceptional and I love it when he is in the game because I feel unbelievably confident.

“But any time you give too much credit to a player that is too young you do disservice to those who have been really good for a long time. Before I crown any young player as the next Lee Smith or Mariano Rivera we’ll let him work a while longer before giving him that type of credit. But I couldn’t be happier that he is in our bullpen.

“He has comfortability with his (late innings) role and doesn’t make it too big,” said Price. “He is more comfortable and less emotional. He has matured as a pitcher in the way he handles his emotions.”

HOMER BAILEY THREW 30 pitches in a bullpen session in Arizona and Price said, “It went very well. His next bullpen will be Monday and he is on an every-third-day routine right now.”

After a few bullpens, Bailey will throw live batting practice and if that goes well he will go out on rehab to pitch in a few minor league games before he will be ready, probably in late June.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

From former Reds pitcher Kent Mercker on Facebook: “Those of you who call the Kentucky Derby the most exciting two minutes in sports obviously didn’t see some of my starts.”


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