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Top of Reds lineup struggling to produce

Lefties continue to baffle Reds as Hamilton, Cozart battle slump
MLB.com @m_sheldon

CINCINNATI -- Mired in a season-high-tying seven-game losing streak, the Reds aren't scoring much in the way of runs. Four of the losses, including Friday's 3-1 defeat to the Dodgers, have seen the lineup produce two runs or less. With the loss to Alex Wood, Cincinnati dropped to a Major League-worst 3-13 vs. lefty starters.

The two men who set the table for the Reds -- Billy Hamilton and Zack Cozart -- have combined to go 5-for-their-last-57. Cozart, who has been electric and one of baseball's top hitters all season, is in a personal 0-for-19 slump. Hamilton has gone 12 games since his last stolen base on May 30. Of course, he has to reach base to steal another.

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CINCINNATI -- Mired in a season-high-tying seven-game losing streak, the Reds aren't scoring much in the way of runs. Four of the losses, including Friday's 3-1 defeat to the Dodgers, have seen the lineup produce two runs or less. With the loss to Alex Wood, Cincinnati dropped to a Major League-worst 3-13 vs. lefty starters.

The two men who set the table for the Reds -- Billy Hamilton and Zack Cozart -- have combined to go 5-for-their-last-57. Cozart, who has been electric and one of baseball's top hitters all season, is in a personal 0-for-19 slump. Hamilton has gone 12 games since his last stolen base on May 30. Of course, he has to reach base to steal another.

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"It's tough to get things going when me and Billy aren't doing anything," said Cozart, who has seen his average dip to .318 from .350 on May 30. "Both of us have to start getting on base for the guys in the middle of the order. When we were playing really well, it seemed like one of the two of us was always on base and let the other guys drive us in."

Hamilton was 2-for-his-last 30 entering the ninth inning on Friday when he was struck on his right hand pulling back a bunt attempt vs. closer Kenley Jansen. Two pitches later, he lined a ground-rule double to right field to lead off a failed rally attempt.

After the game, it wasn't Hamilton's right hand on ice but his left. He's been battling with a sore thumb, and it was covered in an ice wrap. Even with two aching hands, he still stung the ball.

"That's because I didn't swing so hard," said Hamilton, who still leads the Majors with 28 steals. "That's what I've got to do from now on, not swing the bat so hard. Just try to put it in play and good things will happen. It's been a struggle for me the last few weeks. It's something I have to keep learning from and keep battling back. I have to get on base for us to go."

Video: LAD@CIN: Price discusses offensive struggles in loss

Ironically, Hamilton was contemplating giving up switch-hitting in the offseason and going to his natural right-handed side. But he's really struggling vs. lefty pitchers from the right side (.176) compared to .261 as a lefty.

"It's more in my head and not mechanics," Hamilton said of his struggles. "That's one thing that I've learned from the last couple of years. I'd go straight to my mechanics and think it was that. It's just more me trying to put too much pressure on myself when I'm not going well instead of just going up there and playing ball like I know how. Hopefully the last at-bat can get me going from now on."

Hamilton was prone to similar funks the past two seasons, but his defense remained a constant. In the third inning on Friday, he ran down a catch to take a hit from Chase Utley. According to Statcast™, it was a four-star catch because he covered 63 feet in four seconds, which had a 46 percent catch probability.

If Hamilton -- and Cozart -- can get going, so might the offense.

"They've been so good, really igniting the offense and being on base. Billy's on-base, especially as a left-handed hitter, had gone well up over .335, .345, somewhere in that neighborhood," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "But that's inherent with baseball is that you're going to have periods of time where things don't go your way, and I'm confident that both of those guys are going to regain their form." 

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.

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