HOUSTON -- When Reds rookie and top prospect Billy Hamilton arrived at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday, he saw his name was in the second group for batting practice. Players that start for Cincinnati are usually in one of the earlier groups. Sure enough, Hamilton was given his first start in the Majors, batting ninth and playing center field against the Astros.
By the time it was all over, the Reds had a 6-5 win in 13 innings and the uber-speedy Hamilton reached base five times with three hits, four stolen bases and two runs scored, including the go-ahead tally in the top of the 13th.
"It was a pretty big game. I'm excited about it," said Hamilton, who was called up on Sept. 3. "Coming in, I was nervous. I got on the field and guys were on my side. They said, 'You've got to go between the white lines, no matter what level you're on.' That really gave me a bunch of confidence and settled me down a bit."
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Hamilton is the first Major League player since the live ball era (since 1920) to record four steals in his first start. The last Reds player with four steals in one game was Felipe Lopez against the Nationals on May 10, 2006. Ryan Freel's five steals against the Dodgers on July 27, 2005, is the club record.
"My job is to steal bases, no matter how many I get," Hamilton said. "That's an accomplishment to get four in one game. Who knows what comes next?"
Hamilton wasted no time notching his first big league hit, slashing a double to left field in his first at-bat in the second inning before scoring on Shin-Soo Choo's RBI single. It was the first time in his brief big league tenure that Hamilton had been on base without notching a steal.
Choo, the regular center fielder, was shifted to left field to make room for Hamilton.
"It will be a rest day, kind of, with Choo moving from center to left," Reds manager Dusty Baker said before the game. "It's a rest from this big ol' Yellowstone center field here."
Hamilton's second hit, a single to left field, came with two outs in the fourth inning before he stole second base. In the sixth, he gave the Reds a 4-2 lead when his hit caromed off third base for an RBI single that scored Todd Frazier. Hamilton, of course, stole second base. He walked on four pitches in the ninth and stole second again.
"Billy makes it happen. Speed kills," Baker said after the game. "I gave him the green light to go whenever he wants to."
Hamilton's family, led by mother Polly, already departed home for Mississippi on Wednesday morning and wasn't able to be present for the start. They did see Hamilton play the final three innings of Tuesday's 10-0 win, but several friends were around for all 13 innings of Wednesday's game. That meant they could see when Hamilton walked against Jorge De Leon in the top of the 13th.
That time, the Astros called for a pitchout when Hamilton broke for second base. Catcher Matt Pagnozzi's throw was still not in time.
"I didn't realize it was a pitchout until I came in," Hamilton said. "It happens sometimes. You've got to throw the ball across the plate no matter if it's a pitchout or not."
Hamilton scored on Jay Bruce's two-run double to cap a very successful evening.
"He has a chance to be a great basestealer," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "He's one of those guys like a Rickey Henderson. You know they're running and there's not much you can do. You hope you hold the ball long enough so he doesn't get his best jump."
In his brief eight-game career, Hamilton is 9-for-9 in steals and has swiped as many bags as he has plate appearances. He is already second on the team in stolen bases behind Choo's 18.
"It shows they have a little confidence in me," Hamilton said. "I went out there and showed them I could play with the big league guys and everything. That was a real good thing. It was fun. I enjoyed myself and helped the team get a 'W.'"
Bruce hits century mark in RBIs for first time
HOUSTON -- Tuesday's fourth-inning grand slam by Reds right fielder Jay Bruce in a 10-0 victory over the Astros was big for multiple reasons. In addition to it being his 30th homer, it gave Bruce exactly 100 RBIs for the first time in his career.
"It means a lot," Bruce said on Wednesday. "It's something I think is kind of a stigma of a run-producer or middle-of-the-lineup guy carries with him. I've had a 97, a 99, and now 100. It obviously speaks a ton about the guys getting on base in front of me -- Joey [Votto] and [Shin-Soo] Choo and Brandon [Phillips] now."
It's no coincidence Choo and Votto are ranked first and second, respectively, in the National League in on-base percentage. Choo is second in runs scored and Votto is third. And now Phillips and Bruce are ranked second and third in the league, respectively, in RBIs. Phillips entered the night with 101 RBIs.
"It all correlates," Bruce said. "It's a mixture of everything -- getting on base, producing and taking advantage of opportunities. Scoring runs wins games. It's a marriage of sorts."
With Bruce and Phillips, Cincinnati has two players with at least 100 RBIs for the first time since Johnny Bench and George Foster in 1977.
"If you don't have 100 RBIs hitting in the fourth or fifth hole on the Reds, you're not going to have them anywhere," Bruce said of his teammates. "Those guys are on base constantly. It's about when you get the opportunity, obviously take advantage of it. I feel I have done a pretty good job of that and I don't plan on being done either."
The grand slam was Bruce's first since Sept. 10, 2008, against the Cubs during his rookie season.
"It's funny. I had a grand slam five years ago. Time flies," Bruce said. "It's crazy to look back where everything started. It's crazy."
Marshall impresses in return to mound
HOUSTON -- In a low-pressure situation and a 10-0 lead on Tuesday, the Reds were able to send lefty Sean Marshall to pitch the ninth inning for the first time since returning from the disabled list. Marshall hadn't pitched since May 20 due to a left shoulder sprain.
Marshall struck out two during his scoreless inning and threw 16 pitches, 10 for strikes.
"That felt good," Marshall said. "The [eighth] inning was going by pretty fast when I got loose. They had a couple of quick outs there. I started to rush a little bit. Then a guy got hit by a pitch. I had plenty of time to get loose. It felt like old times back out there on the mound."
True to form, Marshall made heavy use of his breaking ball.
"If I'm going to have success, that's one pitch I've got to have," Marshall said. "I was able to throw a couple of backdoor sliders and a couple of curveballs. I tried to throw a heater up, but it kind of went middle-in [to Brandon Laird]. The ump called it for a third strike."