Billy Hamilton likely to open 2014 as Reds’ lead-off man and starting center fielder

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Billy Hamilton was a weapon off the bench for the Reds in September as the team geared up for a run at the NL Wild Card. In 2014, Hamilton is expected to play full-time as the Reds’ lead-off man and starting center fielder, writes MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. Shin-Soo Choo patrolled center for them in 2013, but as he is expected to sign elsewhere in free agency, the Reds seem content to let Hamilton prove himself on a full-time basis.

Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said, “It’s going to be very difficult for us with the amount of money that’s out there. [Hamilton] would be our leadoff hitter if we went to Spring Training tomorrow.”

In his first taste of Major League action in September, the 23-year-old Hamilton stole 13 bases in 14 attempts while hitting .368 in 22 trips to the plate. With Triple-A Louisville, where he spent most of his time throughout the 2013 season, Hamilton stole 75 bases in 90 attempts while hitting .256.

Astros extend winning streak to 11 games

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The Astros rallied late to keep their winning streak alive, extending it to 11 games with a 7-4 victory over the Royals on Sunday afternoon. The club is now 48-25, leading the Mariners by a full game in the AL West.

The Royals took a 4-2 lead after three innings, but Brian McCann knocked in a run with a single in the top of the fourth to cut the deficit to one run. Carlos Correa hit a game-tying solo home run in the eighth. The Astros kept their foot on the gas, scoring two more runs on RBI singles from Evan Gattis and Marwin Gonzalez in the top of the eighth and another in the top of the ninth on Correa’s sacrifice fly.

Starter Lance McCullers allowed four runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks with nine strikeouts over six innings. Tony Sipp worked a scoreless seventh. Ken Giles did the same in the eighth. Hector Rondon finished off the win in the ninth, working around a one-out walk with a game-ending double play.

After winning all 10 games on their road trip against the Rangers, Athletics, and Royals, the Astros will head home for a nine-game homestand against the Rays, Royals, and Blue Jays. Each club is below .500.