CINCINNATI -- Billy Hamilton walked into the Reds' clubhouse Friday afternoon and had to do a double-take.
Hamilton saw his name at the top of the Reds' batting order for the first time since June 29, and for just the 11th time all season. It was the first time Hamilton had been in the leadoff position in a game in which Zack Cozart has also been in the starting lineup. This time, manager Bryan Price has the full intention of keeping Hamilton's name in that No. 1 spot.
"That's where I want to be. Leadoff is always where I've been, but Bryan told me that if I don't earn the spot, then I'm not going to be there," Hamilton said. "When I walked into the clubhouse today and saw the lineup, I thought, 'Is that a misprint?' I'm sure my face lit up. It's my time to show that I deserve to be there."
Hamilton went 2-for-4 with a walk, three stolen bases and two runs scored as he put his best foot forward during the Reds' 6-2 win. Hamilton drove the first pitch he saw from Arizona starter Archie Bradley back up the middle for a single. He and Cozart were on board in the first inning when Joey Votto put the Reds in front for good with a three-run home run. Cozart's two-out double into the left field corner scored Hamilton all the way from first base in the eighth inning for the final run of the game.
Cozart had hit leadoff in the previous 80 games he's started this season. He leads the Reds in doubles (23) and multi-hit games (23), while his 15 home runs equal a career high. Cozart slid into the No. 2 spot.
"There's a lot of good things that will happen from it if it plays out like I anticipate," Price said. "[Hamilton's] certainly a guy that can steal a base and who can maybe force the situation where Zack gets some better pitches, and puts Zack in an RBI situation as opposed to a guy that's hitting after the pitcher the second time through."
Price said he wasn't going to make the switch until Hamilton showed he was worthy of hitting in the spot.
Hamilton has hit .289/.333/.311 with a BABIP of .342 in his last 11 games entering Friday night's contest against Arizona. All of those appearances have been with him batting No. 2 in the order behind Cozart. Hamilton has stolen eight of nine bases in that span and scored nine runs.
"Billy's been so much better and consistent with his approach, even when he wasn't getting hits. He was doing it the right way," said Cozart. "You can tell he's growing as a player. It was only a matter of time. I'm not a leadoff hitter. We came into this knowing that. I've done well, but that's not my gig. When he gets on out of the leadoff spot, it's a game-changer."
Hamilton has hit leadoff in 199 career games, including 193 starts, with a slash line of .245/.294/.352. He's batted leadoff 10 previous times this season -- with nine starts -- hitting .222/.323/.370. Hamilton has hit in the No. 2 spot in 30 games, while also seeing time in the seventh and ninth positions.
"I think I did a little bit to deserve another chance up there at the top again," quipped Hamilton. "Let's see how it goes tomorrow. The main thing is having the confidence to come in each and every day and working and getting better."
Kevin Goheen is a contributor for MLB.com based in Cincinnati. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.