Speedster scores walk-off run on passed ball vs. Brewers
By Cody Pace
CINCINNATI -- With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Brewers reliever Tyler Thornburg just needed to retire Billy Hamilton to send the scoreless game into extra innings. Instead, he walked him.
Hamilton, one of the game's fastest players, has a tendency to wreak havoc on the bases and make it difficult for pitchers. Hamilton did just that, advancing to second on a Will Smith walk to Joey Votto and stealing third before scoring on a curveball in the dirt to Jay Bruce that bounced away from Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy, his fifth passed ball of the year, giving the Reds the 1-0 walkoff win on Sunday at Great American Ball Park
"Our pitchers deserve better than that," Lucroy said. "[Brewers starter Zach] Davies deserves better than that. Will deserved better than that. That can't happen. That's Minor League stuff right there. I made a mistake and it cost us the game."
"I think we all know 'Luc' is an unbelievable catcher, so that kind of stuff is out of the ordinary," Smith said. "It was a decent ways away, too. Tough ball to get to. It happens, I guess. That's what speed does. It makes you freak out."
The ball didn't bounce very far from Lucroy, but it was just enough to give Hamilton the chance to score, and he never hesitated. It's the kind of thing that Hamilton's elite speed creates that not many other players can replicate.
"How many guys in baseball push to make that play right there, really?" Reds manager Bryan Price said. "And the reason he can do that is because he can go down the line, stop, turn and get back to third base and get an aggressive lead and still beat that back pick at third base. That ability to start and stop with that type of quickness I think creates that environment for him to make that play."
It was the previous play that set up the winning run for Hamilton. After Votto drew a walk from Smith, who entered the game for Thornburg, Hamilton stole third base without a throw. While the pitch was low, third baseman Will Middlebrooks was playing deep and several feet off the line, playing Bruce to shift.
The Brewers never had any intention of trying to throw out Hamilton and knew he'd probably try to steal. The argument is that Hamilton, who was going to be moving on contact with two outs, would have scored on any hit, and a throw to third base might've ended up in the outfield, which would've ended the game anyway. Both Brewers manager Craig Counsell and Smith argued it was the right call.
"Left-on-left, just try to get Bruce out," Smith said. "Leave it at that. We had a good idea he probably was going to steal, so it wasn't a surprise there."
Said Counsell: "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."
As quickly as Hamilton scored from third, he left the clubhouse without talking to the media, but there was plenty of praise for the speedy outfielder.
Hamilton's speed creates no-win situations for opposing pitchers unlike most other players in baseball, and it's not the first time this weekend that Hamilton changed the game with his speed. On Friday, Hamilton scored from second on a fielder's choice that didn't leave the infield in what ended up being a one-run game.
"It's just a different level," Bruce said. "A few years ago I popped out to second base and he scored on a sac fly. Yesterday, they tried to turn a double play and he scores. He changes the game. He gives you extra runs. Not to mention the runs he saves on defense."
Cody Pace is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cincinnati. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.