Billy Hamilton is the fastest man in baseball and when the Reds named him their Opening Day center fielder tons of people got excited to see how many bases he could steal as a rookie despite not being much of a hitter. So far the answer is … well, it turns out he can actually hit too.
Hamilton went hitless in his first 12 at-bats of the season, but since then he’s hit .294 with four homers, 17 total extra-base hits, and a .751 OPS in 60 games. This season the National League as a whole has posted a .702 OPS, so Hamilton has been a well above-average hitter for two months now.
Oh, and he’s also stolen 28 bases in those 60 games, which is why everyone was so damn excited for his arrival in the first place.
Hamilton hasn’t done a good job controlling the strike zone and his on-base skills could definitely still use plenty of work for him to fully take advantage of his amazing speed, but he’s 23 years old with a lifetime .730 OPS through 78 games for the Reds and he’s been on fire this month hitting .356 with eight steals, three homers, and a .967 OPS in 15 games.
What an incredibly fun player.
The Dodgers are NL West champions for the fifth time in a row. They clinched with a 4-2 win over the Giants on Friday night, taking their first and only lead on a mammoth record-breaking home run from Cody Bellinger in the third inning.
Rich Hill turned in another quality start, going six innings with five hits, a run and nine strikeouts to keep the Giants at bay. He tacked on an RBI hit of his own, too, lashing a double to left field for his first extra-base hit since 2007.
The Giants, meanwhile, deployed Jeff Samardzija and his 4.42 ERA for 4 1/3 innings. Samardzija was on the hook for the Dodgers’ four-run spread in the third and took his 15th loss of the season. Pablo Sandoval came through with a solo home run in the ninth, but the rest of San Francisco’s offense wasn’t so lucky against Kenley Jansen, who struck out the side to clinch the game — and the division.
After Friday’s showstopper, the Dodgers are just two wins away from their first 100-win season since 1974. If they win the remaining eight games of the season, they’ll beat out the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers for the most wins in franchise history.
Cody Bellinger helped the Dodgers to their first lead on Friday night, going deep for his 39th home run of the season and setting a new National League rookie home run record in the process. With two on and two out in the third inning, the Dodgers’ slugger launched a 2-1 pitch from the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija, skimming the right field fence to give the team a three-run cushion:
The three-run bomb was Bellinger’s sixth of the season. In what is undoubtedly a Rookie of the Year award-worthy campaign, he’s logged 21 solo shots, 11 two-run blasts and a single grand slam. His historic home run topped former NL rookie leaders Frank Robinson and Wally Berger, at 38 homers apiece.
The Dodgers need to stay on top of the Giants to clinch the NL West or, barring that, have the Marlins pull off a win over the Diamondbacks. They currently lead the Giants 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Marlins, meanwhile, are staying just ahead of the D-backs with a 9-7 lead in the top of the sixth.