Back in leadoff spot, Hamilton sparks Cincinnati Reds

Bryan Price couldn’t ask for dividends any more immediate than what he enjoyed Friday night.

The Reds manager’s move of Billy Hamilton back into the leadoff slot sparked a three-run first inning, all on Joey Votto’s home run, and Tucker Barnhart added a solo shot as the Reds opened their three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks with a 6-2 win.

Hamilton went 2-for-4 with a walk, scored two runs – one from first base on a double by former leadoff hitter Zack Cozart – and stole three bases. The production was eerily similar to what Price described before the game.

“I told you what I hoped would happen,” he said. “Tonight, it did. It was a great first day for that switch.”

The Reds, the National League Central Division’s last-place team, improved to 5-2 on their nine-game homestand against Milwaukee, the Central’s fourth-place team, and Atlanta and Arizona, which occupy the bottom rungs in their respective divisions.

Cincinnati also snapped a five-game losing streak against the Diamondbacks. The Reds had lost eight of their last 10 overall against Arizona and also had lost five straight, six of seven and seven of their last against the Diamondbacks at Great American Ball Park.

Hamilton lined Archie Bradley’s (3-6) first pitch of the game to center field for a single, giving him a five-game hitting streak (9-for-22, .409). He stole second base, though he was called out, a decision overturned after a replay review. Former leadoff hitter Zack Cozart walked and Votto drove a 0-1 pitch the opposite way into the left field seats for his 17th home run.

Votto has at least one hit in each of Cincinnati’s first seven games since the All-Star break and is hitting .522 (12-for-23). The homer was his third in that stretch.

The rally snuffed out the 2-0 lead Arizona grabbed in the top of the first on Jean Segura’s leadoff home run and Welington Castillo’s sacrifice fly as Dan Straily got off to a shaky start. Straily (5-6) bounced back to strike out the side in the second and escaped without further damage while lasting six innings, allowing five hits and three walks with eight strikeouts, his second-highest total of the season.

“They get the leadoff homer,” he said. “It is what it is. The second inning was big for me. I went out there with a lead. It helped me settle in.”

Straily, making his first career appearance against the Diamondbacks, limited Arizona’s No. 3 and 4 hitters, Paul Goldschmidt and Jake Lamb, to 0-for-5 with one walk. Lamb went into the game leading the majors with a .714 slugging percentage since May 15 while Goldschmidt had hit .340 with six homers and 29 RBIs over his previous 36 games.

The pair finished a combined 0-for-6, including Lamb’s three strikeouts.

Barnhart greeted relief pitcher Randall Delgado with a home run to lead off the sixth. Barnhart’s fifth homer and second in two games landed in the netting over the visitors’ bullpen down the right-field line. Barnhart had four career major-league home runs going into the season.

Brandon Phillips chipped in with a two-out, seventh-inning RBI single to right, extending his hitting streak to 10 games (13-for-37, .351), Cincinnati’s longest active streak, and Cozart followed Hamilton’s two-out eighth-inning walk with an RBI double into the left-field corner.

“To finally got another chance up there is good,” Hamilton said. “I think I did a little bit to deserve another chance. The main thing is I want to get there and stay there. I don’t mind hitting one or two. Zack doesn’t mind hitting one or two, but we’re different players. He’s a doubles machine.”

Right-hander Raisel Iglesias turned in his seventh consecutive scoreless appearance, all lasting at least two innings. Cincinnati’s Opening Day starter finished with three strikeouts and a walk in two innings while dropping his ERA to 0.50 in nine relief appearances since coming off the disabled list June 21.

He capped his appearance with a strikeout of Brandon Drury, the 11th of the game by Reds’ pitchers, which sparked roars from the crowd of 24,252 relishing free LaRosa’s pizza. Iglesias doffed his cap to the fans as he walked off the field.