ST. LOUIS — The pop fly cleared the infield by about 20-25 feet. Billy Hamilton’s teammates have seen his legs in action, but figured he’d stay put at third.
“We didn’t even think there would be a chance he would go,” catcher Devin Mesoraco said after the Cincinnati Reds’ 4-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday. “As an outfielder, I’m sure you don’t expect anybody to go on that play.
“He gets everybody on their edge of their seat.”
Hamilton’s best game of the season by far backed a stingy outing from Mike Leake. The rookie had three hits and his first two steals — against six-time Gold Glove catcher Yadier Molina — plus that daring dash home on one of the shortest sacrifice flies you’ll see.
Hamilton said third base coach Steve Smith told him, “I want to see how fast you really are.”
“I might not make it every time but there’s always a chance, there’s always a good chance,” Hamilton said. “I knew I had to go.”
It wasn’t even the shortest sacrifice fly he’s created. Against a drawn-in infield when he was at Class A Bakersfield, the year he stole a record 155 bases, Hamilton recalled scoring on a pop fly that stayed in the infield after the fielder was forced to turn around and chase down the ball.
“Guys were pressing a little bit and I told them ‘I’m going to make something happen for you,”’ Hamilton said. “If you get a chance to put the ball in play, I’ve got your back.”
Leake (1-1) allowed four hits and a walk in eight scoreless innings and Mesoraco hit a two-run home run for the Reds, who avoided a three-game sweep after dropping their ninth series in their last 10 in St. Louis. They’re 2-4 against the Cardinals, their NL Central rival, and wrapped up a 2-4 trip.