In the game of baseball, speed is a weapon to be used and admired. On Saturday night at Coors Field, the Cincinnati Reds used their speed to wreak havoc on the Colorado Rockies.
Major League Baseball stolen base leader Billy Hamilton went 3-for-4, swiped a base, and scored twice and Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto brushed aside trade rumors to throw eight shutout innings as Cincinnati posted a 5-2 victory over the Rockies before 41,998 fans.
Hamilton’s speed was a problem all night for the Rockies and opened the door for the Reds in a big third inning against Colorado starter Chris Rusin. He started the frame with a single then moved to third on a perfectly placed hit-and-run single by Brandon Phillips. Joey Votto followed with a single to plate Hamilton and give the Reds a 1-0 lead.
Todd Frazier then inflicted the biggest amount of damage against Rusin, lining an opposite-field three-run homer to give the Reds a 4-0 lead. It was Frazier’s 100th MLB homer and continued a solid season for the National League’s All-Star Game starter at third base and Home Run Derby champion.
In all, Cincinnati sent nine men to the plate in the third inning, notching four runs and seven hits, including six singles. Rusin’s seven hits allowed in the frame matched the amount he surrendered in six innings in his last start against the Texas Rangers.
“I felt good. They just did a good job in that inning of getting deep into the pitch count,” Rusin said. “I allowed the home run but other than that, they just singled us to death.”
Hamilton caused more damage in the next inning, slapping a single to start the fourth inning. With one out, he stole second and advanced to third on Ben Paulsen’s throwing error. Then, with the Colorado infield in, Votto hit a grounder to Troy Tulowitzki. The All-Star shortstop looked Hamilton back and then fired to Paulsen to get Votto at first. However, Hamilton used his speed to just beat Paulsen’s throw home, pushing the Reds to a 5-0 lead.
The stolen base was Hamilton’s 46th of the season, easily outdistancing second-place Dee Gordon’s 33 for the Miami Marlins.
“He has game-changing speed,” said Colorado manager Walt Weiss. “When he gets on, you have to pay attention to him. He has crazy speed. He’s really faster than fast.”
Those five runs would be more than enough for Cueto, who wasted few pitches in his 100-pitch, eight-inning performance. Colorado would manage just one hit in the game’s first three innings and never had more than one baserunner on against him in a single frame. The Cincinnati ace didn’t issue a walk until Paulsen drew one to lead off the eighth. On the night, Cueto scattered four hits while striking out five.
“He throws the entire kitchen sink at you,” Weiss said. “He messes with your rhythm and timing. He threw fastballs at 89 or 90 in the first inning and the same pitch was 95 later in the game. He has a wide range of pitches and uses them all well.”
“He’s one of the best pitchers in the game,” Tulowitzki added. “He’s a smart pitcher and he knows what he is doing. You can tell he’s loose on the mound and plays his game.”
DJ keeps spinning: DJ LeMahieu led off the ninth inning with a single to extend his hitting streak to a career-high and current MLB-high 15 games.
CarGo stays hot: With a fourth-inning single, Carlos Gonzalez has now hit safely in 10 of his past 11 games. He finished 2-for-4 with two singles.
Ouch: On one of the few mistakes he made all night, Cueto hit Nolan Arenado with a pitch on the back of his left hand in the seventh inning. Arenado stayed in the game but was lifted for pinch hitter Daniel Descalso in the ninth.
“The X-rays are negative,” Weiss said. “His hand started swelling so we pulled him out. Will we be cautious with him? Possibly. We’ll see how it feels.”