All Billy Hamilton was looking for was a second chance.
A misplay by the Louisville center fielder in the sixth inning of Monday’s game against Toledo allowed the Mud Hens to score a run that gave them a one-run lead.
“I came into [the dugout] and told [Louisville starter Armando] Galarraga, ‘My bad. That play messed you up,’ ” Hamilton said. “He said, ‘Don’t worry about it. Just get some runs.’
“Then I came up to bat and got the inside-the-park home run that gave us two runs, and he said, ‘See? You made up for it. That’s all that matters.’ ”
Hamilton took advantage of a Mud Hens’ misplay in center field to speed around the bases for a two-run, inside-the park homer that gave the Bats a 3-2 victory.
Hamilton came up to the plate in the top of the eighth with Emmanuel Burriss on first base, two outs, and the Hens still clinging to that 2-1 lead. Hamilton lined an 0-1 pitch by Toledo starter Jose Alvarez to left-center field.
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“I was looking to get to second base because I knew I had hit it pretty good and they were shading me the other way,” Hamilton said. “I knew I had to move it to get the double.
“I thought [Ben Guez] had a pretty good jump on it, but once he dove and the ball got past him, I knew I had a chance for a big play.”
Guez dove instead of making the safe play and catching the ball on a hop, and when he failed to catch the ball, it skipped past him into deep center. Both Burriss and Hamilton scored — Hamilton circled the bases in a scorching-fast 14.3 seconds — on the first inside-the-park home run at Fifth Third Field since May of last season.
The speedy Hamilton, considered one of Cincinnati’s best prospects, has just 10 home runs in his professional career — and five of them are inside-the-park homers.
Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin wasn’t upset with the effort by Guez, but he wasn’t happy with the decision to try and make the catch rather than playing the ball on a hop for a single.
“It wasn’t just the fact that it was Hamilton that hit it,” Nevin said. “It was that, with the tying run on first base, it’s not the best time to dive for the ball.
“You give up a single, keep the run from scoring, and get the next batter out.”
Hamilton made up for his miscue that happened in the sixth inning. With two outs and a runner on first, he came up short on a potential diving catch on a liner by Danny Dorn.
But that wasn’t the miscue. The problem came when Hamilton flipped the ball out of his glove after one-hopping the ball, allowing it to roll away. He then fell down just before throwing the ball toward home, and those two gaffes allowed Toledo’s Nick Castellanos to score from first on the hit.
“I got a cleat caught on my pants,” Hamilton said. “When I got to the ball, that made me slip and fall — and they ended up getting a run out of it.”
Those two plays involving Hamilton were the highlights of a well-pitched game. Alvarez, the Toledo starter, gave up two hits and a run in the first, then retired 19 straight Louisville hitters and finished with nine strikeouts and one walk in 7 2/3 innings.
“Alvarez was terrific, like he has been all year,” Nevin said. “It’s a shame that he gets an ‘L’ hung on him. He didn’t deserve that.
“Every time out he gets contact early, doesn’t walk anyone, and for the most part it has been good.”
The problem was that Louisville’s Galarraga, a former Mud Hen best known for the “imperfect” perfect game he threw with Detroit in 2010, also pitched well. He gave up a solo home run to Kevin Russo in the third, but otherwise allowed just five hits and three walks while fanning five in 7 2/3 innings.
NOTES: The Tigers have signed IF Mike Cervenac to a minor league contract. Cervenac — who played at the University of Michigan, 10 games for the Phillies in 2008, and for five different Triple-A teams — is expected to be activated by the Mud Hens for today’s game at Columbus. … The Hens sent IF Corey Jones to Double-A Erie. … RHP Luis Marte, who began the season with Toledo, had shoulder surgery and is not expected to pitch again this season.
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