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Hal: Hamilton stars as Reds outlast Astros

Billy Hamilton had his official Coming Out Party on Wednesday night in Minute Maid Park and it took 13 innings before the Cincinnati Reds could pass out the party favors.

For 12 innings the Houston Astros did everything imaginable to hand the Reds the game, but they weren’t accepting any gifts until the 13th inning.

Finally, with the bases loaded and one out, Jay Bruce drove a 3-0 pitch to deep center for a two-run double that gave the Reds a two-run lead and they hung on for a 6-5 victory — with a major fright from Aroldis Chapman in the bottom of the 13th.

Bruce, who hit a grand slam home run in Tuesday’s 10-0 win, had three doubles Wednesday and drove in three runs as the Reds completed a three-game sweep.

It enabled the Reds to creep within a half-game of the second place Pittsburgh Pirates with a three-game series in Pittsburgh dead ahead.

With all that happened in this game, and not much didn’t happen, the game was a Billy Hamilton production.

He was making his first start and he provided three hits, his first major league RBI, and stole four bases.

Is there any doubt that baseball’s version of Lethal Weapon shouldn’t be part of the postseason roster?

In order:

Hamilton, batting ninth in the order, doubled to left field in the first inning.

In the fourth inning, he singled and stole second.

In the sixth he singled off the third base bag and stole second, driving in his first run of his career and it gave the Reds a 4-2 lead, the last run they would score until the 13th.

In the ninth he led off the inning with a walk and stole second, an inning in which the Reds drew three walks from wild-eyed Josh Fields, who threw 22 pitches, only six for strikes. But the Reds didn’t score.

In the 10th Hamilton struck out to end the inning with the go-ahead on second base. Hey, the guy isn’t perfect.

In the 13th Hamilton drew another walk on a full count and, of course, stole second on a pitchout – his fourth of the game. He’s 9 for 9 this season. He is the first player to steal four bases in his first major-league start since 1920.

Shin-Soo Choo also walked, and after a wild pitch, Bruce drove his double for the 6-4 lead.

Chapman, who warmed up about a dozen times, came in for the bottom of the 13th and gave up a run before closing off a very long night, getting the last hitter with the tying run and winning runs on base.

It was a night of absurdity.

Houston pitchers walked 11 Reds. And Houston pitcher Jorge De Leon needed only three pitches to retire the Reds in the 12th.

In the ninth inning, the Reds had runners on first and second with no outs. Brandon Phillips laid down a perfect bunt and the throw to first hit him in the back and Hamilton sprinted home. But Phillips ran on the infield grass — out of the base line — and was called out. And the Reds didn’t score, although they had the bases loaded with two outs and a 3-0 count on Ryan Ludwick. He took the next three strikes.

In the 11th, the Astros came close to ending it. They had runners on first and second with one out when Trevor Crowe singled to left. Brandon Barnes, the runner on second, stopped at third, but Jose Altuve, the runner on first, inexplicably rounded second and headed for third — shades of Cincinnati base running. He and Barnes both ended up at third base and Altuve was tagged out. And the Astros didn’t score.

The Reds jumped to an early 3-0 lead, but starter Greg Reynolds was not up to holding it. The Astros scored a run in the third and one in the fourth to cut it to 3-2.

Hamilton’s RBI in the sixth made it 4-2, but the Astros tied it with two on three straight doubles.

Alfredo Simon, who pitched three innings Monday, pitched three scoreless innings in the 10th, 11th and 12th, using 52 pitches.

While the Reds gained a game on the Pirates, the St. Louis Cardinals won and the Reds remain 2 ½ games out of first place.

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