SAN FRANCISCO -- While the starting rotation has been battered with injuries, the Reds' lineup has fueled an 8-3 start to May that has the club in the thick of the division race with the Cardinals.
It's no coincidence Billy Hamilton, the catalyst of Cincinnati's offense, entered Friday in the midst of a season-high eight-game hitting streak. He had also scored runs in 11 straight games, the longest streak for a Reds player in 25 years.
Both streaks were snapped with an 0-for-7 night at the plate in a 3-2 loss in 17 innings to the Giants on Friday. Hamilton appeared gimpy after tweaking his calf late in the game. His status for Saturday afternoon was uncertain.
"He's swinging the bat as well as he has any time I can remember," manager Bryan Price said Friday with his club entering play a half-game behind St. Louis.
Hamilton during his scoring streak hit .347 with a .407 on-base percentage. He scored 16 times while Price's team averaged more than six runs per game. The offense made up for a starting staff that's had to shuffle through arms with the highest ERA in the National League.
It's a far cry from Hamilton's work before the streak, when he hit .211 and scored just nine runs in his first 21 games to start the season.
"He's hitting the ball a lot harder than he was earlier in the year," Price said. "He's driven some balls in the gap, he's hit some balls down the line. He's battled with two strikes. He's hit a lot of balls back up the middle for base hits. Not a lot of these hits are these soft-serve singles to left."
Hamilton in Cincinnati's 3-2 win in the series opener against the Giants on Thursday scored two runs while going 2-for-4 in the leadoff spot.
The Reds center fielder also had a stranglehold on the league's stolen base lead with 19 entering Friday -- eight more than Arizona's A.J. Pollock and Miami's Dee Gordon. Hamilton hasn't stolen a base since last Saturday, but that doesn't mean his presence on the basepaths has gone unnoticed.
"It's a huge difference maker. I think we saw it yesterday," Price said Friday. "[Ty] Blach was really quick from the stretch with Billy on base.
"There's times when I attribute that Zack [Cozart] or hitters behind Billy getting those pitches because of the pitchers being forced to be quicker than they'd like to be, or quicker than is comfortable -- forcing or creating a higher probability of getting a pitch to hit or a mistake."
Hamilton's career-best hitting streak is 12 dating back to June 2014. His run of 11 straight games with a run scored tied Bip Roberts' mark in 1992.