CINCINNATI -- Even when center fielder Billy Hamilton is struggling at the plate for the Reds, interim manager Jim Riggleman finds it hard to keep him out of the lineup because of his defensive ability. Hamilton underscored that in Monday's 7-6 loss to the Mets.Mets second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera launched
CINCINNATI -- Even when center fielder Billy Hamilton is struggling at the plate for the Reds, interim manager Jim Riggleman finds it hard to keep him out of the lineup because of his defensive ability. Hamilton underscored that in Monday's 7-6 loss to the Mets.
Mets second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera launched a long drive to left-center field against reliever Jackson Stephens to begin the top of the fifth as New York led, 6-3. Using his speed, Hamilton tracked the ball perfectly and caught it on the run just before the fence.
According to Statcast™, the drive had a 20-percent catch probability, rendering Hamilton's grab a five-star catch. He covered 96 feet in 4.9 seconds and reached a top Sprint Speed of 30.3 feet-per-second.
"One thing I can do is go out and play defense as best that I can. I try to run down every single ball that I'm capable of getting," Hamilton said. "It was a situation where we wanted to keep it close and give our offense a chance to make a comeback. It's one of those balls you don't want to let it drop for a double. I had a chance to get it."
It was the first five-star catch of the season for Hamilton, who just missed making a leaping catch at the wall on an Amed Rosario drive in the fourth inning that went for a double.
"Billy is the guy that we need him so bad in center field," Riggleman said before Monday's game. "There's talk that this ballpark is not that big, but you know what? It shows up here too. It's not just in the bigger ballparks, it shows up here that he makes plays that nobody else can make."
Hamilton has started to heat up at the plate lately, as well, and he also sparked the Reds with a rare flash of power. As Cincinnati trailed, 5-0, in the third inning against pitcher P.J. Conlon, Hamilton drove a 1-0 pitch for a one-out solo home run to left field.
It was Hamilton's second homer of the season, and the 19th of his career, and it extended his hitting streak to a season-high six games. During the streak, he's batting .368 (7-for-19) with four walks and four runs scored to lift his season average to .206 with a .319 on-base percentage.
A video session with hitting coach Don Long helped show Hamilton why he was getting under balls and popping up too much.
"My back elbow has been always going high," Hamilton said. "The first move I make is my front elbow going up, so I'm missing the ball a little bit. I went and did a little drill where I can relax my back elbow and not do so much with my feet. It's been helping me feel relaxed and not swing at as many bad pitches. I'm drawing walks and getting the hits I need. It's been a grind but I have more confidence than I've had all year. I feel like I can battle no matter who the pitcher is."
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.