What do Billy Hamilton, Deion Sanders and Andy Van Slyke have in common? Not much, but Hamilton did his part to make the connection on Thursday night.
The speedy top Reds prospect tied a Triple-A Louisville record with a pair of triples and continued his hot August in the Bats' 4-2 loss at Pawtucket on Thursday.
Hamilton, whose base-stealing prowess has defined his career with the Reds, showed off his speed out of the box with a leadoff triple to start the game and another three-bagger with one out in the fifth. According to the Bats, he's the 15th player in Louisville history to hit a pair of triples in a game, joining the likes of former big leaguers Van Slyke and Sanders.
The 22-year-old came around to score the Bats' first run on Neftali Soto's single in the first. Louisville then was held off the scoreboard until the eighth when Felix Perez homered to tie the game. Pawtucket pulled ahead for good on Drew Sutton's two-run single to center in the bottom of the eighth.
Hamilton's last two-triple effort came on April 15, 2012 with Class A Advanced Bakersfield. That season he hit 14 triples and stole 155 bases to set a new professional baseball record. (Sanders, incidentally, led the National League with 14 triples for the Braves in 1992.)
For his career, Hamilton has 40 triples in 488 Minor League games since 2009.
Luis Bolivar, who is now a coach in the Reds' system, was the last Louisville player to hit two triples in a game on Aug. 27, 2009 against Columbus. Van Slyke did it in 1983 and Sanders, known for his speed in the Majors and the NFL, managed it on April 9, 2001.
Ranked No. 3 in the Minors last year in triples, Hamilton is 16-for-41 (.390) in his last 10 games for Louisville and has raised his average to .261 after his 2-for-4 night. The switch-hitting center fielder is 18-for-55 in 13 August games and has recorded multi-hit efforts in six of his last 10 starts.
Entering Thursday's game, Hamilton was hitting .287 with 20 steals and 11 RBIs in 32 games since missing eight games with a sore wrist.
A Futures Game All-Star in 2012 and '13, Hamilton hit .311 with 45 RBIs, 22 doubles, 155 steals and owned a .410 on-base percentage in 132 games last season between Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola. He made his Triple-A debut this season, but got off to a slow start, batting .205 in April.
The converted outfielder has stolen 69 bases, which puts him third in the Minors behind Winston-Salem's Micah Johnson (79) and Lake Elsinore's Travis Jankowski (71), but ahead of Major League leader Jacoby Ellsbury (44).