Hamilton powers Reds past Pirates

As he does against most teams, Billy Hamilton usually inflicts more damage against the Pittsburgh Pirates with his legs than his power.

The Pirates, in fact, have been the favorite targets in his career, now in its fourth full season. The Cincinnati center fielder went into Wednesday night’s matchup with the National League Central Division rival with 60 hits and 45 stolen bases in 49 career games — more than he had piled up against any other team.

Hamilton switched weapons Wednesday. His three-run homer in the fourth inning broke open a close game, giving the Reds a 6-0 lead on their way to a 7-2 win on the first of four Bark in the Park nights at Great American Ball Park.

“He continues to be more than a rock in our shoe,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said.

Hamilton’s home run was his first in 319 at bats – the third-longest stretch among active players. He’d last homered on June 28, 2016, off the Chicago Cubs’ Jon Lester.

“I had no idea,” Hamilton said. “I know now. It could’ve gone 300 more, as long as I was getting base hits and getting on base.”

Devin Mesoraco also snapped a long home run drought. The injury-plagued catcher’s one-out solo shot into the left field seats off of right-handed relief pitcher Trevor Williams in the sixth inning was his first in 117 at bats since Sept. 23, 2014 against Milwaukee.

The Reds have won three of their last four games and improved to 5-1 over the Pirates.

Eugenio Suarez also hit a three-run homer and Rookie Davis labored through five shutout innings, throwing 91 pitches while qualifying for his first career win. The rookie right-hander finished with three strikeouts and two walks while allowing four hits and hitting a batter. He got out of bases-loaded jams in the second and fourth innings – allowing himself a little right fist pump after striking out John Jaso to end the fourth – and left runners on second and third in the third.

“I’m happy for him,” manager Bryan Price said. “He had to work for it. Nothing came easy for him. The Pirates don’t go away. They grind it out. That got his pitch count up. Some big offense certainly helped.”

The start was the fourth of Davis’ career and second since being hit in the right forearm by a Jameson Taillon pitch while trying to lay down a bunt April 11 in Pittsburgh. Davis was coming off a start in which he allowed 11 hits and eight runs, seven earned, in a 9-4 loss at Milwaukee last Thursday.

“I think the biggest difference in this outing from the previous one was I executed pitches and stayed composed,” Davis said. “(Mesoraco), every time he came out, was saying, ‘Stop thinking and just compete.’ ”

Zack Cozart, who had two hits in 19 at-bats over his previous five appearances, shot a line drive single to left field with one out in the first. Joey Votto, who turned in two sparkling defensive plays, walked and Suarez connected one out later for sixth homer and Cincinnati’s second first-inning, three-run homer in two games. Votto gave the Reds a brief 3-0 lead with a titanic shot in the first inning of Tuesday’s 12-3 loss.

The Reds had five hits in their first three innings against Taillon — as many as they collected in Tuesday’s entire game — and they broke through in the fourth. Jose Peraza, who tied his career high by extending his hitting streak to seven games, came up with his second leadoff single in two at-bats. Taillon hit Mesoraco with a pitch, and Davis advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt.

Facing a drawn-in Pirates infield, Hamilton – batting left-handed – pulled a fly ball down the right-field line and into the visitors’ dugout for his first homer of the season and 14th of his career.

“He’s seen us a lot,” Taillon said. “That’s kind of his game, just be a rock in your shoe – put the ball in play, ground balls, play defense, just be a little pain.”

Taillon, who went into the game with a 1-0 record and 3.18 ERA in three career starts against Cincinnati, set a single-game season high for runs allowed with six.

Peraza finished with three hits, including an eighth-inning leadoff double off left-hander Tony Watson, to push his average during his hitting streak to .323 (10-for-31).

Andrew McCutchen’s seventh-inning, two-run homer off left-hander Cody Reed kept the Reds from earning their second shutout win.

Reed issued four walks in two innings.