CINCINNATI -- The Red Sox don't see Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton very often. On Sunday, Boston learned something most National League teams have long understood.
Always have a plan for when Hamilton is on the bases, and don't assume he's done running. In a 5-4 Reds loss, Hamilton turned a pickoff play into a rundown that led to him scoring from first base after a defensive breakdown.
"That was amazing, I've never seen that before," Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez marveled.
Facing reliever Brandon Workman in the bottom of the seventh as Cincinnati held a 3-1 lead, Hamilton worked a one-out walk after falling into a 0-2 count. As Zack Cozart batted, Hamilton was caught too far off first base by Workman's pickoff throw and started running.
First baseman Mitch Moreland fired to Dustin Pedroia, but the second baseman made an errant throw that went to the first-base dugout rail. Hamilton turned and went to second base -- and then kept going.
"That's one thing about me when I run, I kind of run with my head up, so I can see what kind of play is happening," Hamilton said.
As Hamilton motored to third base, he saw no one was covering home plate.
Workman had already broke for first base to cover the rundown. Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez had gone to retrieve Pedroia's throw. Everyone else appeared to be standing around, and Hamilton kept going.
Third baseman Rafael Devers realized too late, and he tried running down the line to the plate.
"It was just a race between me and Devers," Hamilton said.
Vazquez tried to hustle back, and shortstop Xander Bogaerts desperately ran to the plate. Everybody was too late.
Hamilton was easily safe at home, and the Reds had a 4-1 lead. An excited Hamilton got up and exchanged high-fives with teammate Joey Votto. He suffered a cut above his eye from his helmet as he slid, but he didn't care.
"Maybe my whole career, I think, that was one of the best ones," said Hamilton, who also hit an RBI triple in the fifth. "Especially when you get into a rundown and you don't even expect to get to second base, and you end up getting home. I was just mad because I got picked off, and I ended up scoring. I'll take it."
"It's remarkable in that he went from first to home where the ball was just so close to home plate," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "I was amazed at his ability to actually make a play of that and to score."
Red Sox manager John Farrell was not pleased with what he saw.
"First of all, after three throws on the rundown, we have him by right in a position to record an out," Farrell said. "Brandon was late getting over to first base, Pedey's got to lead him, but unfortunately the throw was behind him a hair. And after the throw got to the screen, we left home plate vacant and a guy with lightning speed, he took advantage of it. We've got some things we've got to shore up defensively."
Hamilton didn't fault Boston's defense, however.
"You don't expect guys to actually run home in that situation," Hamilton said. "You don't expect guys to even think about that. For me, I like to run the bases and I like to do crazy things on the basepaths. I saw I had the chance, and I took it."
In the end, however, the Reds lost on a similar heads-up play. Mookie Betts hit a three-run double against Raisel Iglesias, and then he scored from second base on a two-out infield hit by Devers.
"All losses are deflating. We'd rather have a win in that situation," Hamilton said. "It's baseball and things happen, and you can't fault anybody."
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.