When he’s good, he’s very good. And Billy Hamilton was at the top of his game on Sunday, slashing hits, stealing bases, scoring runs and splashing down on the PNC Park warning track after one of the great catches of the season. The former Taylorsville High star produced three hits, three runs and two stolen bases in Cincinnati’s 8-6 win at Pittsburgh. But it was his defense that stole the show. The speedy center fielder tracked down a fly ball in right-center to make a catch that, according to Statcast, had a 2 percent probability of being made. He reportedly covered 83 feet in 4.3 seconds. “It’s like video game stuff,” said Reds pitcher Anthony DeSclafani in an mlb.com article. Francisco Cervelli, who hit the ball, applauded the play, as did Pirates fans. Hamilton needed a good day at the plate. The 3-for-4 boosted his average to .197, and he now has 13 stolen bases and 34 runs in 67 games. … At Dodger Stadium, Chris Stratton, the former Mississippi State standout from Tupelo, threw six impressive innings – three hits, one walk, no earned runs – to notch his eighth win of the year for San Francisco in a 4-1 victory against Los Angeles. It was the first career win for Stratton in four decisions vs. the Dodgers. He is 8-4, 4.22 ERA on the year and tied for second in the National League in wins. … At Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Tony Sipp, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College alum from Pascagoula, worked a scoreless seventh inning and earned the win as Houston extended its streak to 11 by beating the Royals 7-4. Sipp has made four scoreless appearances during the Astros’ run. Coming off a couple of rough years, the 34-year-old lefty has sliced his ERA to 2.16 and has 16 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings over 20 appearances overall.
Jarrod Dyson and Billy Hamilton, two guys possessed of the kind of speed that can change a game, have been on the same big-league field this week. So far, only Dyson – a.k.a. Zoombiya — has had a major impact. The McComb native and ex-Southwest Mississippi Community College star went 1-for-3 with a walk and scored twice as Arizona beat Cincinnati 5-2 on Tuesday night at Chase Field in Phoenix. Taylorsville’s Hamilton, nicknamed Bone, had a couple of hits but didn’t score or drive in a run. Dyson, hitting leadoff for the Diamondbacks, ran through a stop sign at third base to score his first run in the third inning; he beat the relay throw without a slide. “I was already at full throttle and it’s hard to stop me like that,” he told mlb.com. In the fifth, he singled, went to second on a wild pitch and scored the D’backs’ final run on an infield throwing error. Dyson went 0-for-3 with two walks and a steal in Arizona’s 12-5 win in Monday’s series opener. Hamilton was a quiet 1-for-4 in that game. Dyson is batting .185 with two homers, eight RBIs, 16 runs and nine steals in 42 games for an Arizona team that is contending in the National League West. Hamilton, typically the Reds’ 9-hole hitter, is at .213 with two homers, 14 RBIs, 24 runs and nine steals in 54 games for club that is scuffling at 19-37. Their teams meet again today in the series finale. Don’t blink – you could miss something.
Say it ain’t so: According to Statcast metrics, Billy Hamilton, the Taylorsville Tornado, is not the fastest man in baseball. In fact, per the story on mlb.com, there are two players in the big leagues who are faster: Byron Buxton and Delino DeShields Jr. Having seen Hamilton chase down fly balls and go first to third, it’s really hard to imagine someone faster. And yet, Hamilton’s best Statcast Sprint Speed clocking is 30.1 feet per second, compared to Buxton’s 30.7 and DeShields’ 30.4. Yes, it’s a slender reed, but third is third. That’s what the numbers say. The story listed the fastest player on each team. Jarrod Dyson, the ex-Southwest Mississippi Community College star from McComb, tops Arizona at 29.2. (Note: He’ll be 34 in August.) Former Mississippi Braves Ronald Acuna (29.8) and Mallex Smith (29.5) lead the pack in Atlanta and Tampa Bay, respectively. Perhaps they need to get some of these guys together at the All-Star Game for a little race.
You still have to scroll down quite a ways to find Billy Hamilton’s name on the MLB batting average list. But a recent hot streak has carried the former Taylorsville High star above the proverbial Mendoza Line and could be a good sign for a Cincinnati club that needs some. Hamilton, batting .346 in May, went 2-for-4 for the Reds on Thursday with a triple and an RBI in a 4-1 win against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The switch-hitting center fielder is now at .212 for the year with a .314 on-base average. He has two homers, 11 RBIs and 21 runs hitting mostly at the bottom of the order. As recently as April 29, he was hitting .169. “It’s been a grind but I have more confidence than I’ve had all year,” he told mlb.com a few days ago. Jim Riggleman, who took over as Reds manager for the fired Bryan Price on April 19, has kept Hamilton in the lineup, citing the value of his defense. Oddly enough, Hamilton has only five stolen bases, the most recent on April 23. The Reds, even after a season-best three-game win streak, are 11-27, worst record in the National League. … Brian Dozier, the ex-Southern Miss standout from Fulton, has not been hot of late but may have had a breakout Thursday, going 4-for-4 with a homer in Minnesota’s loss to the Los Angeles Angels. Dozier is batting just .190 over his last 15 games and is at .246 with six homers, 14 RBIs and 20 runs for the season. Production from Dozier, who typically hits first or second in the lineup, is essential for Minnesota (15-18) as it battles to stay in the American League Central race. P.S. Scott Copeland, the former Southern Miss ace, is off to Las Vegas; that is, he has been promoted to the Triple-A 51s by the New York Mets. Copeland was 1-1 with a 1.74 ERA in two starts for Double-A Binghamton. Copeland, in his ninth year of pro ball, had signed with a team in the independent Atlantic League this spring but was purchased by the Mets a short time thereafter. He has five MLB appearances on his resume, all with Toronto in 2015. At age 30, Copeland was a bit old for Double-A, though one of his teammates was another 30-year-old name of Tim Tebow.
Surely you’ve seen it: Billy Hamilton made another highlight-reel catch on Monday, robbing Shohei Ohtani of extra bases in a Cactus League game. Hamilton’s defense is Gold Glove-caliber – on that we can all agree. It’s that other phase of the game – offense – where the Taylorsville native has been lacking. He would seem to be the type of player – that is, small and really fast — who could benefit from bunting for a hit. Yes, he’s a base-stealing fool. But he has a career on-base percentage in MLB of .298, which is not good, especially for a leadoff batter, which is what Cincinnati wants him to be. According to research published by espn.com, Hamilton, now entering his fifth season with the Reds, is bunting less than ever and not doing it very well. He had four bunt hits in 2017 on 19 attempts. That’s down from career-highs of 15 and 44 in 2014. The 160-pound Hamilton had as many homers as bunt hits last season. And he struck out 133 times in 582 at-bats. When he gets on base, he scores quite often – 44 percent of the time in 2017, according to FanGraphs. Seems he just hasn’t been taking full advantage of his strongest tool – speed – and that’s very puzzling. Hamilton reportedly is working on his bunting this spring in Arizona, though we’ve heard that before. He has been out of sync at the plate generally, going hitless in his first 14 at-bats over seven games. He popped up, struck out and walked (then was caught stealing) on Monday.
Billy Hamilton’s left thumb, which was broken on Sept. 6, probably still hurts. But the former Taylorsville High star can still swing the bat. And he can still run. Hamilton’s blazing speed was on display Sunday against Boston at Great American Ballpark, first when he tripled to drive in a run and later when he escaped a rundown between first and second base and wound up scoring. On that play, Hamilton dashed to third on a bad throw and scooted home when the Red Sox neglected to cover the plate. “In my whole career, that’s one of the best ones …,” Hamilton told The Associated Press. (Boston would win the game, however, 5-4 thanks to some heads-up baserunning by Mookie Betts.) Hamilton has played twice since coming off the disabled list last Wednesday. He is 3-for-8 with a pair of runs. He still leads the National League with 58 steals, two ahead of Miami’s Dee Gordon. Hamilton is batting .250 (.301 on-base percentage) with 10 triples and 84 runs in 134 games in his fourth season as a Reds regular.
The Billy Hamilton highlight reel, filled with daring stolen bases, ridiculous diving catches and great throws, added something new today: a walk-off home run. The Taylorsville High product swatted a Josh Hader fastball over the left-field wall at Great American Ballpark as Cincinnati beat Milwaukee 5-4. It was not only the first walk-off ever for Hamilton but his first right-handed homer of the season. The 160-pound leadoff batter and center fielder, who also picked up his 12th assist in the game, has four homers his season and 17 career bombs. “I’d rather throw a guy out than hit the big homer, but I’ll take both of them,” he told The Associated Press. On the season, he is batting .250 with 36 RBIs, 82 runs and an MLB-best 58 steals.