Reds Win in Ten

The Reds entered their most important home stand of the season this past week and thus far have gone 5-1 against St. Louis and Los Angeles. They won a second tight game against the Dodgers on Saturday and sweep on Sunday will guarantee they cut another game off the lead of whoever loses in the series finale between the two teams in front of them in the NL Central.

Cincinnati sustained their drive toward the division lead Saturday with a 4-3 win over the Dodgers at Great American Ball Park. Cesar Izturis was an unlikely offensive leader when he stroked a hit to start a first-inning rally that included RBI singles by Jay Bruce and Ryan Ludwick that gave the Reds an early lead. The infrequently used utility infielder came back to double in a run that tied the game in the seventh inning. That is the way the score remained until Ryan Ludwick led off the bottom of the tenth with a walk and was replaced by Billy Hamilton. The pinch-runner was again successful swiping second base and scored on walk-off single by Todd Frazier.

Izturis led his team with three hits while Joey Votto went 2-2 with three walks and has now reached base in all nine plate appearances in the series thus far. Shin-soo Choo finished with two hits and scored a run. On the mound Mat Latos got no decision from a quality start, allowing three runs on nine hits/one walk over seven innings. A second inning home run by Yasiel Puig caused him to leave the game with his team behind. Four Reds relievers combined for three innings including one each from Sam LeCure and J.J. Hoover with the latter giving Aroldis Chapman his first game off in the last five days by finishing the game with the win.

Thus far Hamilton has made four pinch-running appearances that have resulted in four stolen bases. Two of them set him up to cross the plate with game-winning runs and another helped tie a game to extend extra innings. His career has been very brief, but thus far he's been providing an extra base into scoring position just by inserting him into the game. Eventually the Reds are expecting more than stolen bases from the soon-to-be 23 year-old prospect but for right now manager Dusty Baker has taken advantage of his spot in the expanded roster to terrorize opposing defenses for an inning in four of the last five games. Given the success he's had thus far it's a safe bet that Reds fans will see that strategy some more over the remainder of the regular season. Hamilton's appearances have been brief, but he's making a significant impact without ever donning a glove or swinging a bat.

The Reds are now only one and a half games behind St. Louis who took over the division lead by shutting out Pittsburgh. They're still in third place and winning close games like they have the past couple of days will be huge during the heat of the pennant stretch. Having Hamilton available to enter the game on first base will continue to give them an advantage in tie games when they need a late-inning run.

Cincinnati will go for the sweep Sunday night when they hand the ball to Homer Bailey who will face Dodger ace Clayton Kershaw. Bailey will enter the contest riding a streak of fourteen scoreless innings and has allowed four runs in his last four appearances/28 innings to lower his ERA to 3.42. He took a loss even though he allowed only two runs over seven innings in his last start against the Dodgers in late July.

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