(BaseballStL) — In case you missed it yesterday, Billy Hamilton is fast. I say ‘in case you missed it’ because even if you were watching the game, you might have sneezed when the Reds’ leadoff man turned a routine single into a double in what felt like a matter of milliseconds.
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Everyone knows by now his prodigious base stealing totals in the minors, but seeing him stretch a soft liner into right field into two bases was a firsthand introduction to what grade 80 speed looks like in human form.
But Hamilton isn’t the only elite runner in this series. The Cardinals have their own fleet-footed center fielder in Peter Bourjous; and like Hamilton, Tuesday saw him finally break into the hit column.
It was a looper into center that broke the egg, but in his fourth at bat, Bourjos showed his speed. In the seventh he took a grounder down the line into left field, turning it into an easy double of his own.
“I always like hitting doubles or triples, and being able to run a little bit,” he said before the game Tuesday. “So it’s nice when I get one down the line or in the gaps.”
Both Bourjos and Hamilton are looking for more opportunities to open up the throttle on the bases, and both have had false starts to start the year.
“Speed’s a big part of our game,” Bourjos said talking of Hamilton. “You gotta be able to put the ball in play to use the speed, obviously.”
The two began the season 0-for-17 in their combined plate appearances, with Hamilton debuting to four strikeouts. For a player who builds his game around speed, it's doubly frustrating to never get out of the box.
Mike Matheny certainly prefers it, however, knowing just how much havoc Hamilton can cause if he gets loose on the bases.
“He’s an effortless runner,” Matheny said. The Cardinal manager compared Hamilton to a speedster from his playing days, Tommy Goodwin.
“No matter what happened, people were freaking out every time the ball was put in play, knowing it was a couple steps and not just one,” he said, remembering the speedy center fielder. Goodwin stole 369 bases in his career, a mark Hamilton* could break with ease if he gets on base.
Matheny said the 23-year-old’s double in the first inning painted a clear picture of just how fast a player the rest of the league is dealing with.
“That’s pretty indicative yesterday of the speed he has. He made that look pretty simple,” he said. But he didn’t think Cardinal fans should get too wide-eyed over Hamilton until they see Bourjos hit the gas.
“It’s been a couple months here we still really haven’t seen all of his speed. We haven’t seen him with his base stealing, haven’t seen a lot of opportunities,” Matheny said. “He’s an elite runner, there’s no question about it, but I think there’s still some ‘wow’ that we’re going to have ahead of us.”
Bourjos will get another shot to show the wheels Tuesday, as he hits eighth against Reds starter Homer Bailey. After his two-hit day during the home opener, he’s looking to settle in and find his swing.
“Any time you can build on a couple hits, coming in the next day, being in the lineup and trying to build on that is nice. Get comfortable in the batter’s box,” he said. “You get comfortable in the box and your mechanics fall into place and your approach falls into place. You’re able to trust yourself.”
*(Know who’s third all time in stolen bases? Billy Hamilton. He played from 1888-1901)