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Blaze's Hamilton racing toward .400
Reds prospect raises average to .395, steals three more bases
04/28/2012 2:16 AM ET
Billy Hamilton has hit safely in 17 of his 21 games this season.
Billy Hamilton has hit safely in 17 of his 21 games this season. (Ricky Bassman/Bakersfield Blaze)
At this rate, Billy Hamilton is going to run straight to Cincinnati.

The Reds' No. 2 prospect went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and three more stolen bases Friday as Class A Advanced Bakersfield beat Modesto, 7-0, for its 11th straight win.

Hamilton opened the game with a single to right field and quickly stole second. After Devin Lohman walked, Hamilton was caught trying to steal third. But he walked in the third inning, stole second again and later scored on Travis Mattair's sacrifice fly.

The 21-year-old shortstop was at it again in the fifth, singling to center, stealing second and coming home on a double by Donald Lutz.

"I'm staying focused and getting pitches to hit and not rushing at-bats," Hamilton said. "Basically, just trying not to strike out."

Hamilton, who drew two free passes, has been on a remarkable week-long tear. He has stolen bases in five straight games, swiping 12 bags during that stretch. Over his last 10 games, he's 16-for-42 to raise his batting average to a California League-leading .395 with 23 runs scored. His 26 steals are 10 more than anyone else in the Minor Leagues, one year after stole 103 bases for Class A Dayton.

"It's just a matter of working and getting better, just getting on base more and not worrying about the average and staying aggressive at the plate and scoring runs for the team," said Hamilton, who batted .278 a year ago in the Midwest League.

Hamilton continued to prove his speed is no fluke. His three steals Friday came against Nuts catcher Bryce Massanari, who threw out 47 percent of would-be base-stealers last season. Over his four-year Minor League career, the Mississippi native is 191-for-228 on the basepaths, an 84 percent success rate.

"I feel like I can go on any catcher or any pitcher," Hamilton said. "I have that confidence built in and it's been working good for me. Basically, it's a green light and I have to learn my situations on when to go and when not to go."

Lutz and Yorman Rodriguez contributed two hits and two RBIs apiece for the Blaze, who improved to a Cal League-best 14-7.

Bakersfield starter Kyle Lotzkar improved to 3-0 after limiting Modesto to three hits while striking out four over 5 2/3 innings.

Robert Emrich is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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