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With 4 SBs, Hamilton races to 40-steal mark

Back in leadoff spot, speedy center fielder collects two hits, two walks, scores three runs

CINCINNATI -- On Monday night, Billy Hamilton did what he does best: run fast and steal bases.

Hamilton returned to a familiar role as the leadoff hitter to help the Reds defeat the Twins, 11-7, in the three-game series opener at Great American Ball Park. Hamilton was able to utilize his speed throughout the game as he reached base in his first four at bats and recorded four steals, including his 40th of the season.

"That's fun, that's always fun," Hamilton said of his four steals. "Even though you don't get as many hits as you'd want. I came up [with] two hits and there was more out there to get ... but four stolen bases gets my confidence where I need it to be."

Hamilton started with a bunt single to lead off the bottom of the first. He scored the first of his three runs later in the inning on a single by Todd Frazier.

Video: [email protected]: Frazier opens scoring with RBI single

The following inning, Hamilton stole both second and third after he reached on a walk. Hamilton eventually scored on a soft single to left field by Ivan De Jesus Jr., but if he hadn't stole third, he may not have scored on the play.

Hamilton finished his impressive evening with a walk in the third and another infield single in the fifth. Both were followed by steals of second.

With the four steals, Hamilton has 19 in June and leads the Major Leagues with a commanding 14-base advantage over Dee Gordon of the Marlins.

"The Twins did a great job of throwing over, mixing their times, pitches were very quick to the plate on Billy and he was still able to make some things happen," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "I was really happy for the way he went about things and that he was able to get some good results because he's putting in a lot of time with [hitting coach] Don [Long], trying to get more balls on the ground."

With Brandon Phillips sidelined with injuries to both of his hands, Hamilton returned to the leadoff spot. It was only the second time Hamilton hit leadoff for the Reds since Price moved him to the bottom of the order May 17. Price made the move to help takes away some pressure from Hamilton, who was hitting .212 at the time.

"I'm trying to be as aggressive as I was in the ninth hole and took it then to the leadoff spot," Hamilton said. "I was talking to Jay Bruce about it, I said, 'Can I take my same thought process in the ninth hole to the one hole?' and he was like, 'From the first pitch on, I'm ready to hit from the first pitch on.' He says, 'If it's right there in the spot that you want it, hit it,' and that gave me confidence to just get on base and do what I did if I was in the ninth hole."

Robert Bondy is an associate reporter for
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