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Hal: Hamilton key to Reds win

Another glimpse of what Billy Hamilton can do to a baseball game appeared Tuesday night in Great American Ball Park.

It isn’t something that appears with any regularity yet, but when it does it is enough of a tease to make Cincinnati Reds fan wonder what will happen when it happens more often.

Hamilton added a new facet to his running game, the home run trot, as the Reds defeated the Chicago Cubs, 3-2.

The start of the game was delayed by 19 minutes, there was a 15-minute rain delay in the top of the fifth and there was a one-hour and 11-minute delay in the sixth.

It seems as if a permanent rain cloud hovers over Great American. In 10 homes games there have been seven rain delays for a total of 10 hours and 42 minutes. The game ended at 11:56 and there were less than 200 fans in the stands.

Hamilton had three hits and a walk, scored two runs and made a diving catch. The home run traveled 397 feet to right field and the two hits, both infield rollers on which he used his fleet feet, traveled a total of about 100 feet combined — a dribbler to shortstop and a dribbler to third base, both of which he beat when the infielders made hurried throws.

Because of Hamilton, the Reds scored a run in the bottom of the first without a hit. Hamilton walked, stole second, took third on a wild pitch by harried Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija and scored on a sacrifice fly to deep right by Brandon Phillips, only his fifth RBI this year and second in his last 18 games.

There was a slight hiccup in the third after Hamilton beat an infield hit to shortstop. He was caught trying to steal second. While he has 15 thefts, he has been caught five times.

The Cubs scored twice in the third off Reds starter Alfredo Simon to take a 2-1 lead but Hamilton tied it in the fifth with his first major-league home run.

The Reds took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth after they had two outs and nobody on base. Zack Cozart tripled to right center and scored on pinch-hitter Chris Heisey’s ground single to left. Hamilton then beat an infield single to shortstop and play was stopped for the second time during the game due to rain.

This is one case where the two infield hits mean more than the home run because Hamilton’s game is his fleet feet. He’ll get more hits with ground balls than he will with big fly.

Hamilton, though, knows what will keep him in the majors ¬— and it isn’t home runs. Asked which he preferred, a home run or two infield hits and he popped his answer right out, “Two infield hits, any day. That’s my game. I’ll take two infield hits every day.

“The home run? No, not at all. That rarely happens,” he added. “I’m glad it did because it was a big run and everything, but I want to have the infield hits.”

His manager, Bryan Price, feels the same way, calling the home run, “A bonus. It is nice to know that the power is there, but power can be seductive. But I’ve never seen Billy look as if he is trying to hit the ball out of the ball park and give away at-bats.

“He is very cognizant of trying to stay on top of the ball and shoot line drives and hard ground balls through the infield,” Price added. “We just don’t want him to be seduced by (home runs). We want him to stay with his approach.”

Hamilton promises and said, “I will. I’m no home run hitter. That’s not my game. Getting on base four times and stealing bases and scoring runs. That’s my game.”

Heisey’s pinch-hit single made Simon the winning pitcher, pushing his record to 4-a1 as the stand-in for injured starter Mat Latos.

“It isn’t a surprise that he has been competitive,” said Price. “The surprise is that at times he has been a shut-down starter. He has wanted this opportunity, has been presented with it and he has run with it. He has been terrific.”

In six innings, Simon gave up two runs, five hits, walked two and struck out five and his earned run average stands at 1.80.

Jonathan Broxton pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his fifth save in his last five appearances as the stand-in closer for Aroldis Chapman.

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