HOUSTON (AP) — Cincinnati’s Jay Bruce loves playing in Houston, just a short 85-mile drive from his hometown of Beaumont, Texas.
With the Astros move to the American League, Bruce knew Wednesday night would likely be his last trip to Minute Maid Park for several years, and the slugger wanted to make the most of it.
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He got his wish, knocking a two-run double in the 13th inning to help the Reds to a 6-5 victory.
“It’s a little better when I do well here because it’s where I grew up,” Bruce said. “I have a lot of people come watch and it may correlate. It was a good series. I’m glad that we got the sweep and I’m also glad that I played well for myself, for the team No. 1 and for the people who came to watch.”
Rookie base-stealing specialist Billy Hamilton got his first three career hits, had four steals, an RBI and scored the go-ahead run in his first major league start.
“Billy makes it happen,” manager Dusty Baker said. “Speed kills … he played a great, great game.”
Hamilton walked to start the 13th and stole second before Shin-Soo Choo walked. They advanced on a wild pitch before Jorge De Leon (0-1) intentionally walked Joey Votto with one out.
Bruce’s third double of the game– his career high — bounced off the wall in center field to send Hamilton and Choo home. By the time he hit the game-winner, it was well after midnight and only a few fans remained and the majority of them were Bruce’s friends and family who were crowded behind the Cincinnati dugout.
“It’s always great coming back and seeing people,” he said. “It’s not too cool that we don’t come back for a while.”
Bruce had seven hits and 10 RBIs in the series to give him 103 RBIs this season.
Alfredo Simon (6-4) pitched three scoreless innings for Cincinnati. Aroldis Chapman allowed a hit and a run in the 13th, but struck out Chris Carter to end the 5-hour, 18-minute game for his 37th save.
Brandon Barnes hit a solo homer and Carlos Corporan drove in two runs for Houston.
The Reds led early, but Houston tied it 4-4 with a two-run sixth.
Hamilton, who set a professional record with 155 steals in the minors last year, is the first player since 1920 to have four steals in his first major league start, according to stats provided by the Reds from the Elias Sports Bureau.
“My job is to steal bases, no matter how many I get,” Hamilton said. “That’s a really big accomplishment for one game. So who knows what comes next.”
He is the first Red with four steals in a game since Felipe Lopez in May 2006, and finished one steal shy of the team record. The 23-year-old is 9 for 9 on stolen base attempts. He walked twice to become the eighth player in major league history and the first since Bruce in 2008 to reach safely five times in their first career start.
The Astros were impressed with Hamilton.
“Four stolen bases and we weren’t even close,” Houston catcher Corporan said. “We even pitched out and he steals on the pitcher and the catcher. He’s one of a kind.”
Chris Carter and L.J. Hoes hit consecutive singles with one out in the 12th, but Simon retired the next two batters to send it to the 13th.
The Astros had a shot to win it in the 11th. Barnes singled to start the inning and took second on a sacrifice bunt by Jonathan Villar. Cincinnati intentionally walked Jose Altuve before a single by Trevor Crowe.
But Altuve got caught in a rundown and was out on the play before Marc Krauss struck out to end the inning.
Bruce got things going for the Reds with an RBI double to right field to give them a 1-0 lead in the first. A sacrifice fly by Ryan Ludwick extended the lead to 2-0.
Hamilton collected his first hit with a double with two outs in the second inning. Hamilton scored on a single by Choo to leave Cincinnati up 3-0.
Barnes cut the lead to 3-1 with a solo homer which bounced off the low wall in right field to start the bottom of the third.
Hamilton hit a two-out single in the fourth and stole second. He had made five appearances as a pinch runner and two as a defensive replacement since his promotion on Sept. 2 before starting in center field on Wednesday night.
A bases-loaded one-out sacrifice fly by Corporan got Houston within 3-2 in the fourth inning.
Hamilton hit a two-out grounder down the right field line bounced off third base for an RBI single to extend the lead to 4-2 in the sixth. He stole second base in that inning.
Pinch-hitter Hoes greeted reliever Manny Parra with an RBI double to cut the lead to 4-3 in the sixth. Corporan followed with a run-scoring double to tie it and end Parra’s night.
NOTES: The Reds have a day off on Thursday before opening a series against NL-Central foe Pittsburgh on Friday with Mat Latos scheduled to pitch against Francisco Liriano. … Dallas Keuchel is set to pitch for the Astros when they begin a four-game series at Cleveland on Thursday. … Votto went 0 for 4 with three walks to snap a 23-game hitting streak at Minute Maid Park, which was the longest by any player in the park’s history.