Billy ball! Hamilton, Reds walk off on passed ball
By Adam McCalvy and Mark Sheldon
CINCINNATI -- The pitching for both the Reds and Brewers was airtight all afternoon on Sunday until Milwaukee let the wrong guy get on base: Billy Hamilton. The speedster scored from third base on a passed ball in the bottom of the ninth that gave the Reds a 1-0 walk-off victory at Great American Ball Park and two of three games in the series.
A streak of 16 Reds batters in a row were retired until Hamilton walked with two outs in the bottom of the ninth against reliever Tyler Thornburg. Lefty Will Smith took over to face Joey Votto, who went into a 3-0 count before drawing a walk with a full-count to put Hamilton in scoring position. Hamilton stole third base without a throw against Smith as Jay Bruce batted. A 1-0 curveball to Bruce got away from catcher Jonathan Lucroy and Hamilton was able to score with a headfirst slide into the plate as a desperation throw was nowhere close.
"The big part of that of course is it does really put the impetus on their defense to make every single play," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "Even a ball that gets past the catcher a few feet puts us in a situation to win the game. That started with Billy getting on and being able to steal third base as quickly as he did. If he would have waited a couple of pitches, he wouldn't have had that opportunity."
Brewers manager Craig Counsell lay equal blame on a Milwaukee offense limited to four hits, including three in seven innings against Reds starter Dan Straily. That offered little solace to Lucroy.
"Our pitchers deserve better than that," said Lucroy, taking the blame. "That's Minor League stuff right there."
Between Zach Davies and Straily, the offenses combined for seven hits and no runs through seven innings. But both pitchers gave way to the bullpen from there. Davies finished with four hits, no walks and five strikeouts while Straily allowed three hits and one walk while striking out four.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Getting into position: In the Reds' one-run win Friday, Hamilton scored from second base on a fielder's choice. His speed played again in the series finale, when the Brewers essentially conceded Hamilton third base, with Will Middlebrooks well off the bag and Lucroy not even attempting a throw when Hamilton took off on the first pitch to Bruce. The stolen base, the 150th of Hamilton's career, positioned him to score on the passed ball.
Arguing it was the right call to focus on the hitter instead of Hamilton, Counsell said, "Otherwise, we're trying to throw a guy out who's really tough to throw out. I think more can happen trying to throw him out. Just let him go there." More >
On the run: The Reds threatened right away against Davies, putting their first two batters aboard with singles. But Davies navigated the trio of Votto, Bruce and Adam Duvall to keep Cincinnati off the scoreboard, retiring Duvall thanks to center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis' diving catch of a shallow fly ball. Davies surrendered only two more hits and faced the minimum over the next six innings, retiring the final 11 batters he faced.
"It's great to be back," said Davies, who'd been optioned to Triple-A over the All-Star break so the Brewers could add a bat. "It's great to go out there and, from the start, be in the game, be focused, and that I'm attacking the hitters the way we set up the game plan." More >
Caught for the first time: In the bottom of the second, Jose Peraza was on first base when Davies made six pickoff attempts to hold him. Peraza finally took off for second base on a 1-1 changeup but was nailed by a perfect throw from Lucroy. Peraza had been 10-for-10 this season on steal attempts and 13-for-13 over his brief career.
Straily posts zeroes: Despite having quality starts his last two outings, Straily came in 0-4, 7.67 ERA in five starts since his last win on June 11. On Sunday, he had two runners in scoring position all day and he retired 10 of his last 12 batters. Straily exited with 99 pitches and 72 strikes.
"I felt good all day on the mound," Straily said. "It's exciting to get back on the mound after extended time off. Everything felt good. I had good command of everything. You never know what you're going to get first one after the break. Apparently I did enough work over the All-Star break to be ready to go for today."
"It was a great win to win when we did and not take that game into extra innings and make it one of those games where you go, 'Jeez, is somebody going to try and do something great here and play 16 innings or are we going to just bear down and get that run?' which we did and win.'" -- Price, on the thrilling finish
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It was the 20th 1-0 game in the 14-year history of hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park, and the first this season. The last was a Reds loss to the Dodgers last Aug. 27.
With a scoreless inning each from Michael Lorenzen and Tony Cingrani after Straily's departure, the Reds' bullpen has allowed four runs over 27 1/3 innings in the last eight games for a 1.32 ERA. It's dropped their relievers' overall ERA from 6.31 ERA to 5.55, still the highest in baseball.
"You know what? They deserved to get bashed early in the season and they deserve the praise now," Price said.
WHAT'S NEXT Brewers: The Brewers' road trip continues Tuesday in Pittsburgh at 6:05 p.m. CT, with Junior Guerra on the mound against 24-year-old Jameson Taillon, fresh off a stint on the disabled list for a shoulder injury. It's the first of 16 games between the Brewers and Pirates in the second half.
Reds: The homestand transitions to another three-game series vs. the Braves, beginning at 7:10 p.m. ET Monday. Brandon Finnegan will be making his first start for Cincinnati since July 5, when he gave up a career-high four homers over five innings vs. the Cubs while still earning the victory.