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Game-changer Hamilton receives a breather

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PITTSBURGH -- Reds leadoff hitter and center fielder Billy Hamilton was given a rest from the starting lineup on Thursday as Chris Heisey replaced him for the series finale vs. the Pirates.

Hamilton was his typical thorn in the side for Pittsburgh during Wednesday's 5-2 victory. During his 2-for-4 game, he had a RBI single in the fifth inning. When subsequently stealing second base, catcher Chris Stewart's throwing error allowed Ramon Santiago to score from third base. Hamilton soon scored on a fielder's choice.

Although he has only a .266 on-base percentage following a bad first week of the season, Hamilton is the Reds' leader with nine steals. After coming in as a pinch-runner in the ninth inning of Thursday's 2-1 win, he's been caught three times.

"He has the ability to change the game in a lot of different ways," Reds right fielder Jay Bruce said. "His speed is at a completely different level. There are a lot of guys that are fast, but it's pretty amazing. When he gets on base, he creates havoc. You're always worried about him and focused on him. This is no offense to Billy, but you have Joey [Votto] up, you have Brandon [Phillips] and you have me -- they might want to work on getting the batter out. He just creates that in the back of your head. He puts it back there and makes a lot of stuff happen."

In the top of the ninth inning Wednesday, Hamilton hit a single to center field and looked like he was taking two bases. It caused center fielder Andrew McCutchen to bobble the ball out of his glove for an error that put Hamilton on second.

"I'm playing six steps in the gap, hits one up the middle, and with our grass being as thick as it is, I know I've got to bust it in," McCutchen said. "I was trying to rush and get it in, and I wasn't able to field it cleanly -- a guy with his speed is going to be able to create that type of break."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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