Reds rookie Billy Hamilton proves potent in 11-3 victory over Pirates
Speedy outfielder scores three hits and steals two bases to see Cincinnati tie for wild-card lead after routing Pittsburgh Pirates
Billy Hamilton remains perfect on the base paths. The Cincinnati Reds remain perfect with their speedy rookie outfielder in the starting line-up. The combination could prove potent during the final week of the regular season, and maybe beyond.
Hamilton got three hits and stole two more bases and the Reds routed Pittsburgh 11-3 to tie the Pirates for the NL wild-card lead. Batting right behind Hamilton, Chris Heisey had three hits and two RBIs as the Reds won two of three to pull even with the scuffling Pirates.
"Those guys set up some big innings," Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker said. "You need guys in your line-up to drive in runs, but it's just as important to have guys to get on base, so they can be driven in."
The Reds and Pirates each have magic numbers of two to close out Washington and clinch a play-off spot.
Jay Bruce hit a three-run double and Todd Frazier followed with a homer that capped a five-run burst in the first inning. Bronson Arroyo (14-11) made it stand up, lasting five innings to win for the first time in nearly a month. The Reds won for the fifth time in six games to head home for a season-ending six-game home stand with some serious momentum.
"We knew it was an important series, they knew it was important and our guys responded and jumped them early in this one," Baker said. "It was a good win for us, and an important win."
Neil Walker hit his 13th homer of the season, but Pittsburgh stumbled in their home finale. The Pirates have lost five of seven and will have to clinch their first postseason berth in 21 years on the road. Pittsburgh begin a six-game road trip today (Hong Kong time) in Chicago against the Cubs.
"Today we dug ourselves a little bit of a hole early and they never let up, kept their foot on the gas pedal," Walker said. "We have to continue to play good baseball and things will go our way."
They are certainly going Hamilton's way. His presence has given the Reds a needed late-season jolt. He was at it again against the Pirates, easily taking second base in the second inning and doing it again in the sixth. Hamilton is 12-for-12 on swipe tries since his late-season promotion from Triple-A and is 6-for-14 and has scored nine times as a major leaguer.
Bruce had four RBIs and Heisey added three hits, while driving in two runs.
Jeff Locke (10-7) was tagged in the first inning and did not come out for the second.
After morphing from fifth starter to improbable All-Star, Locke fell to 2-5 with a 6.12 ERA in the second half of the season. His next turn in the rotation is on Saturday in Cincinnati, but a day off on Thursday gives the Pirates some flexibility with their rotation for a series that could have serious play-off implications.
After Bruce doubled to the gap in the left of centre field, Frazier followed with his 18th homer, a two-run shot to the deepest part of PNC Park.
"Everything happened pretty fast," Locke said. "I hit a few walks, a big hit by Bruce, and the homer by Frazier and before you know it Arroyo was my last hitter. I think you try to avoid the big inning and unfortunately the big inning was the first inning."