By HAL McCOY
Make a list of the most likely guys on the Cincinnati Reds to hit a two-out, two-strike bottom of the ninth-inning walk-off game-winning home run.
Joey Votto? Not this day. Adam Duvall? No. Scott Schebler? No. Eugenio Suarez? No. Scooter Gennett? No. Zack Cozart? No.
How about Billy Hamilton? The man of fleet feet but batting power, ripped a 1-and-2 pitch over the left field fence on a 1-and-2 count — one strike away from sending Monday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers into extra innings.
It was Hamilton’s fourth home run this season, a season in which any guy carrying a bat can hit a home run with the juiced up baseballs. And Hamilton juiced that one, giving the Reds a 5-4 victory over the Brewers.
The sad part of the day was that Homer Bailey did not get the win after pitching his best game of the season.
It was just a few starts ago and Bailey was not having much success, but he said, “I really feel good, I’m very close, I’m going to finish this season real strong.”
That prediction came to fruition on Labor Day in Great American when Bailey completely turned the ignition switch to ‘off’ on the high-powered Milwaukee Brewers offense.
In two previous starts this season against the Brewers Bailey gave up eight runs in eight innings.
But on Monday, when he took the mound with a 0-and-6 record at home this season, Bailey held the Brewers to no runs and three hits over six innings. It was the first start in September for the oft-injured Bailey since 2013 due to three surgeries.
Bailey took the mound in the seventh inning for the first time this season and had retired 14 straight Brewers and owned a 4-0 lead.
But he immediately gave up a home run to Ryan Braun, the fourth career home run by Braun against Bailey. Then he gave up singles to Travis Shaw and Domingo Santana to put two on with no outs.
Manager Bryan Price decided to bring in Michael Lorenzen to rescue Bailey. It failed. Lorenzen retired the first two but Orlando Arcia drove the first pitch he saw for a three-run game-tying home run. Bailey could not win and could not lose.
And it stayed 4-4 until the ninth when Milwaukee left handed relief pitcher Josh Hader took the mound. He retired Tucker Barnhart on a hard ground ball and struck out pinch-hitter Patrick Kivlehan. Then Hamilton, batting right handed, powered the game-winner over the wall — and it was a no-doubter. Even Hamilton said he knew it was destined to land in the seats when he connected.
The Reds were facing one of Milwaukee’s best starters, Chase Anderson (8-3, 2.96). They scored their first two runs on bases loaded walks, one to Joey Votto in the third and one to Eugenio Suarez on four pitches in the sixth.
The Reds added two more, with the help of shortstop Orlando Arcia’s error in the sixth. After the bases loaded walk to Suarez, Tucker Barnhart banged a two-run double to make it 4-0.
Then came the seventh and Braun’s home run off Bailey and Arcia’s three-run homer off Lorenzen to tie it.
Lost in Hamilton’s home run was a defensive play he made in the first inning. And it wasn’t a spectacular catch. It was a throw in the first inning.
With one out, Neil Walker doubled and Braun singled him to third. Travis Shaw flied to medium depth center field. Walker tagged and tried to score but Hamilton wiped him out with a perfect peg to home plate.
That was the only threat against Bailey until the seventh. The Brewers put only one runner on base against Bailey from the second through the sixth.
Of Hamilton’ throw, Bailey told the media in his post-game interview, “That was really big. Walker shouldn’t even have even been on base (his double was a bloop to right field on which Scott Schebler dove and narrowly missed). But our outfield is really good. We don’t have to talk about Billy. We see it every day. He is a highlight reel out there.”
And for this rare occasion, his bat was included on the highlight reel, too.