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Hamilton's hustle helps Braves win 7th straight

New arrival plays a key role in two weekend wins, at plate and on bases
@mlbbowman
August 25, 2019

NEW YORK -- Billy Hamilton will receive a $100,000 bonus if he tallies 15 more plate appearances this year. The Braves will view this as a bargain if the speedy outfielder continues to take full advantage of these at-bats he was not expecting to receive. Hamilton delivered his second key

NEW YORK -- Billy Hamilton will receive a $100,000 bonus if he tallies 15 more plate appearances this year. The Braves will view this as a bargain if the speedy outfielder continues to take full advantage of these at-bats he was not expecting to receive.

Hamilton delivered his second key hit in less than 24 hours and then used his speed to maximize the value of the game-winning single Ronald Acuña Jr. delivered in the eighth inning of the Braves’ 9-5 win over the Mets on Saturday night at Citi Field.

“I don’t know if I’ve won as many games in a row in my career,” Hamilton said. “It’s definitely fun. I keep getting chances to play and having fun with it.”

Box score

The Braves have won seven straight, including each of the five they have played since Hamilton joined them after being released by the Royals. Their six-game lead in the National League East has been strengthened by the recent additions of shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, catcher Francisco Cervelli and Hamilton, each of whom was either released or claimed off waivers within the past nine days.

Acuna’s go-ahead, two-out single off Brad Brach easily scored Rafael Ortega from second. Hamilton raced from first to third base and then scored in uncontested fashion when left fielder J.D. Davis lazily lobbed the ball back toward second base.

“You know on a single, they're not going to be looking to throw the ball to third,” Hamilton said. “As an outfielder, you're told to just get the ball into second base. But when I looked back and saw he still had the ball, it kind of surprised me. You've got to make two throws like that. If you get me out, I'll give you props. It worked out for us."

When Hamilton joined the Braves, he was told he’d be used primarily as a pinch-runner and late-inning defensive replacement. But injuries and a short bench have created more opportunities than expected for the 28-year-old outfielder, who produced the game-winning single in Friday’s 14-inning win over the Mets.

“Already since he’s been here, it’s been big,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “We’ve utilized him really well. I love it for him because I can tell already he’s such a great kid and a great teammate.”

As the Braves overcame the go-ahead three-run homer Pete Alonso hit off starter Max Fried in the fifth inning, they also received valuable contributions from the longer-tenured roster members. Freddie Freeman set a new career high when he belted his 35th homer to begin a two-run ninth and Josh Donaldson secured his fourth 30-homer season when he teamed with Ozzie Albies to hit solo shots off Mets starter Zack Wheeler in the third.

With Donaldson, Acuna and Freeman, the Braves have had three players tally at least 30 homers for the seventh time in franchise history. The most recent occasion had been 2003 (Andruw Jones, Javy Lopez and Gary Sheffield).

But while it will be imperative for the Braves to continue receiving the MVP-caliber production Donaldson, Acuna and Freeman have contributed over the past few months, they are enjoying the instant impact made by newcomers Hamilton and Cervelli, who signed with the Braves Saturday afternoon.

Acquired to improve the catching depth, Cervelli enjoyed a three-hit performance during his first day with the Braves. The 33-year-old veteran delivered a pair of doubles, including one in the second inning that plated the game’s first two runs.

“After he got that hit in the second inning, I just said, ‘Why don’t we get a new guy every single day?’” Freeman said. “It’s been pretty amazing. [Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos] is pushing all the right buttons.”

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.