CHICAGO -- Yes, Jay Bruce's diving catch in the ninth inning saved the game for the Reds in their 5-4 victory over the Cubs on Friday at Wrigley Field. But it was Billy Hamilton who was earning praise.
With the potential winning run on second base and one out in a 4-4 game, Bruce sprinted from right field on a hard-hit ball from Chicago pinch-hitter Jonathan Herrera. Bruce leapt at the last moment, extending his arm to take away a walk-off hit and keep the runner from advancing beyond third base.
"Off the bat, I just thought I'd do whatever I can to make the catch," Bruce said. "Been watching [center fielder] Billy out there for a while now. Trying to be like him."
Hamilton, who returned from an injury, has made his fair share of catches in center field, and Bruce, time after time, has had a front-row seat to watch him. This time, it was Hamilton watching as Bruce's catch allowed Cincinnati to escape the ninth inning before ultimately winning it in the 10th on Eugenio Suarez's single.
"I think the catalyst to everything was the catch Jay Bruce made in right field -- a game saver," said Reds manager Bryan Price. "Really, I think it gave us some momentum back after the home run after Castro, and gave us the momentum back and put us in a position to win that game."
Bruce had a hand in the game-winning run, too. With Todd Frazier on first base, Bruce shot a single through the gap between first and second base, giving Frazier enough room to advance to third.
"[Bruce] used that hole," Price said. "He did a nice job to put things in motion there with runners on first and third and set the table for that hit by Suarez."
The performance couldn't have come at a better time for the Reds and Bruce. The right fielder had been slumping of late, batting .125 (4-for-32) with eleven strikeouts over nine games before Friday.
Still, Bruce has now boosted his average from .173 to .218 in the last month, settling in to a bit of a rhythm. The single was Bruce's second hit of the day and his 25th in the last 24 games. As his team has struggled with injuries, Bruce has been one of the few remaining from Opening Day to make it through without spending extended time out of the lineup.
"We're just doing what we can, honestly," Bruce said. "They played a tough game. It was good to win that one."
Greg Garno is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.