Up until last week, International League pitchers were finding it pretty easy to retire Billy Hamilton, but that's not quite how Hamilton words it.
"I was getting myself out most of the time," he said.
On Monday, the Reds' top prospect collected three hits, three runs and two stolen bases in Louisville's 5-4 loss to Buffalo.
The 3-for-5 performance boosted Hamilton's average to .379 (11 for 29) over his past six games. It was his second three-hit game in that span -- he hit two homers in a 3-for-5 showing against Buffalo on Friday -- and he's raised his average .047 points to .236 in that time.
"I had to adjust to start in Triple-A," he said. "The pitching in Double-A, it was a little different."
Over the first month of the season, Hamilton found himself flailing at too many pitches outside the zone and not doing enough with the pitches he could hit. He accrued 22 strikeouts in his first 28 games, batting .189 with just seven extra-base hits in 121 plate appearances.
"[Triple-A pitchers] know what to do," he said. "They really don't try to get you out so much as they want you to get yourself out, and that's what I was doing. In Double-A, they want to make you chase bad pitches and get you out. Here, they just spot you up and try to let you get yourself out.
"The last couple of weeks, I was getting myself out all the time."
Hamilton put the ball in play in each of his five plate appearances Monday. In the first inning, hitting left-handed against right-handed starter Claudio Vargas, he worked a 3-2 count. On the payoff pitch, Vargas came at him with a low fastball, and he popped it out to center fielder Anthony Gose for an out.
MLB.com's No. 11 prospect then singled in each of his next three at-bats. In the third, he was jammed by an inside fastball, and trickled a weak grounder toward third. Andy LaRoche was cheating in, anticipating a bunt, but even from there, the third baseman deemed it useless to throw to first with Hamilton's speed.
Hamilton proceeded to steal second and advanced to third when catcher Josh Thole overthrew second base, then scored on Henry Rodriguez's groundout.
In the fifth, Hamilton swung at the first pitch from Vargas -- a high fastball. He ripped the ball up the middle, placing a line drive just beyond the reach of second baseman Jim Negrych.
In the seventh, Hamilton faced right-handed reliever Jeremy Jeffress. The center fielder drilled another line-drive single into center field, this time poking an 0-2 fastball down and away that likely would've been a strike. He again stole second -- his 21st steal in 34 games this year -- and scored on Neftali Soto's single two batters later.
"I'm not getting myself out anymore," he said. "I'm not chasing pitches and I'm getting deeper into counts. I'm a little more relaxed at the plate, and that's helping me slow myself down."
Louisville led heading into the eighth, 4-2, but the Bisons came back with a three-run top of the eighth. Moises Sierra started the rally with a one-out double and Luis Jimenez followed with a walk. With two men aboard, Mauro Gomez belted a home run to right.
The Bats managed just one baserunner in the final two innings, with Henry Rodriguez leading off the ninth with a single, but he never advanced beyond second. Hamilton batted in the bottom of the eighth, but was thrown out trying to leg out a bunt single.
Gomez finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs and Sierra had two hits for the Bisons. Buddy Carlyle (2-0) picked up the win with 1 2/3 perfect innings in relief.
Soto amassed four hits for Louisville and Rodriguez added two.