By HAL McCOY
St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina probably begs and pleads and cajoles his pitchers by saying, “Please, please, please don’t let Billy Hamilton get on base.”
But they do. And they pay — Molina, the pitchers and the Cardinals.
When Hamilton gets on base he becomes a human merry-go-round as he swiftly streaks around the bases.
AND THAT’S THE WAY it was Tuesday night in Busch Stadium as Hamilton was the ignition switch and catalyst for a 7-4 Cincinnati Reds victory.
Hamilton was on base three times, scored three runs and stole three bases, pushing his season’s theft total to 48. And for his career against Molina he is 20 for 22.
The thin man with the flying feet was in the middle of three different rallies in a back-and-forth game which the Reds put away in the eighth with a three-run rally that broke a 4-4 tie.
THE CARDINALS TOOK A 1-0 lead in the second inning when Molina greeted Reds pitcher Brandon Finnegan with a home run.
Hamilton drew a one-out walk from St. Louis starter Mike Leake in the third inning and promptly stole second. He move to third on Zack Cozart’s single and Joey Votto walked to fill the bases.
Adam Duvall was 0 for 18 when he walked to the batter’s box to face Leake, the pitcher the Reds traded to the San Francisco Giants to get Duvall. He singled up the middle for two runs and a 2-1 Reds lead.
The Reds took a 3-1 lead in the fourth on Tucker Barnhart’s ground ball and the Cardinals cut it to 3-2 in the bottom of the fourth while Jedd Gyrko was hitting into a double play, one of four the Reds turned.
The Cardinals tied it, 3-3, in the fifth when Matt Holliday homered, the 24th home run given up by Finnegan this season.
RELIEF PITCHER KEVIN SIEGRIST walked Hamilton to open the seventh and one could almost see catcher Molina flinch. Sure enough, Hamilton stole second and scored on Votto’s single to center, pushing the Reds back ahead, 4-3.
Michael Lorenzen, unscored upon in his last seven appearances, replaced Finnegan in the seventh and his scoreless streak ended. Lorenzen struck out the first two, then gave up a double to Holliday and a game-tying single to Brandon Moss and it was 4-4.
Then came the game-deciding eighth against St. Louis relief pitcher Matt Bowman. And Hamilton was in the middle of it.
Like Lorenzen, Bowman retired the first two. But Barnhart doubled and Tyler Holt broke the tie with a double. Hamilton nubbed an infield single on which second baseman Matt Carpenter tried to bare hand and missed. Holt scored from second.
Hamilton stole second and scored on Zack Cozart’s single — four straight hits and three runs. For Hamilton, it was the fifth time this season he has stole three bases in a game.
BOTH STARTERS, FINNEGAN and Leake, pitched six innings and both gave up three runs and six hits. Finnegan, though, walked six, his high for the season. Neither starter figured in the decision.
Lorenzen pitched a scoreless eighth and Raisel Iglesias pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his first career save. Expect a lot of saves to come for Iglesias, who dearly wants to be the Reds closer. He should be and probably will be.
Neither Lorenzen nor Iglesias were available Monday when the bullpenners Tony Cingrani and Ross Ohlendorf blew a 4-0 ninth-inning lead as the Reds lost, 5-4.