ST. LOUIS -- Unlike many of the dazzling catches he's made during his career, Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton had time and physics on his side Friday night vs. the Cardinals. Hamilton didn't have to make a mad sprint or a body-bending play to rob Matt Carpenter of a home
ST. LOUIS -- Unlike many of the dazzling catches he's made during his career, Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton had time and physics on his side Friday night vs. the Cardinals. Hamilton didn't have to make a mad sprint or a body-bending play to rob Matt Carpenter of a home run.
Nope, he just waited for the ball to come back down and then made his move. To end the bottom of the seventh inning of a 9-1 win over the Cardinals, Carpenter lifted a first-pitch fastball from reliever Amir Garrett to straightaway center field.
"I actually thought it was a routine pop up to be honest with you. It was to the point where I'm not going to make it to the warning track," Hamilton explained.
Off the bat, Hamilton turned his back and ran toward the wall and spun around. Then he backpedaled a few feet and turned again. As the ball came in for landing, he sprinted again and scaled the fence and reached over to make a spectacular catch.
"By the time I made my second turn, I was on the warning track," Hamilton said. "I looked up again and made another turn and I was like 'OK, the wall is right here. Let's try to make a play.' It happened to be right on time. It gave me enough time to actually get up on the wall and bounce myself up."
According to Statcast™, the ball had six seconds of hang time. Hamilton ran 85 feet to the wall before the catch. He landed on his chest before getting up excitedly and jogging back to the visitor's dugout.
"Sometimes you can't control your emotions. It's the fight in you in the game when you feel like you made a great play," Hamilton said. "I don't try to do it on purpose. I felt like it was the right time. It was a great play for Amir, especially when he's kind of been up and down a little bit his last couple of outings. It was big for me."
Watching the play develop, Garrett could only stand with his arms folded and yelled with disbelief once the catch was made.
"My face said it all. That was great to be a part of. That was sick," Garrett said. "I've never seen a catch like that before, live. I think that has to be one of the greatest catches I have seen in my life. Billy is, in my opinion, he's the best center fielder in the game. There's not anyone close to No. 1. To have a guy like that behind you, you never know what he's going to do. The only thing I haven't seen is him catching a ball behind his back. He's done everything else."
Carpenter showed his frustration by slamming his helmet to the ground as he rounded first base. But he showed his appreciation after the game.
"It was a remarkable catch. He got there for sure. It was a great play, no doubt about it," Carpenter said. "Honestly, anytime I hit the ball, and hit it in his direction, I don't feel good about it."
It was the second time in the game Carpenter was burned by a Hamilton defensive gem. In the first inning to make a four-star running catch by Statcast™ standards, Hamilton went 49 feet in 3.4 seconds to make a play with a 37 percent catch probability.
"It's the nature of it. You hit the ball on the barrel and sometimes somebody makes a great play. Billy does that to a lot of hitters," Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said.
Hamilton has regularly made defensive plays that wow teammates, opponents and fans. Those who remained among the sold-out crowd of 45,891 fans at Busch Stadium after his seventh-inning grab at the wall gave Hamilton lively applause. The Cardinals' video department even showed multiple replays on the scoreboard.
"These fans here know baseball," Hamilton said. "They know when someone makes a play or when someone does something good -- when someone runs a ball out hard."
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.