Hamilton runs wild against Lester, Cubs

Hamilton runs wild against Lester, Cubs

CHICAGO -- Billy Hamilton swiped a career-high five bases Sunday night, including three while Cubs starter Jon Lester was on the mound, and scored the Reds' only run in a 2-1, 11-inning loss to Chicago. 

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"He out-runs a baseball," Lester said. "I haven't seen many guys do that."

"It's kind of a testament to Billy, really, because I thought they put in a great effort to control him there, and he was still able to do his thing," Reds manager Bryan Price said.

But it wasn't enough, and Hamilton now has 31 stolen bases for the season, most in the Major Leagues.

"I am certain he's going to do that again," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Hamilton's quintet. "He's an extremely unique talent when it comes to speed. He should play in the NFL in the offseason."

Obviously, the key to stopping Hamilton is to keep him off the basepaths.

"It doesn't matter how quick you are to home plate, it doesn't matter how many times you throw to first, he flat-out out-runs a baseball," Lester said. "There' s nothing you can do about that. You can't defend it, you just hope he either doesn't get a great jump or slips or something, and the catcher throws the ball right at the bag and he slides into the glove.

"A guy like that, you just worry about the hitters and not give up base hits to those guys," Lester said. "He's going to run around the bases. It is what it is."

Hamilton stole second and third in the third inning, and then swiped third in the sixth. In the 10th, Hamilton set his single-game career high when he stole second and third. The five steals not only tied a club record, but raised his total to 100 for his three-year career.

Hamilton became the first player with five steals in a game since Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury did so against the Phillies on May 30, 2013.

Hamilton, who had two singles and a walk Sunday, entered the series finale vs. the Cubs hitting .217 with a .258 on-base percentage this season, both of which rank in the bottom 15 of qualifying hitters.

Hamilton's average this season is below his career batting average of .245. As his hitting numbers have dipped, so, too, has his on-base percentage. He has taken just 13 walks this season, a season after registering a .292 OBP.

"I just gotta get on base," Hamilton said before his big night Sunday. "I gotta find a way to do it. I can't say anything about it; I just have to do it."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. Greg Garno is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.