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Elly De La Cruz's power and speed are generating more excitement in Cincinnati

CINCINNATI (AP) — Elly De La Cruz’s power and speed are generating more excitement for the Cincinnati Reds.

The 22-year-old Dominican star hit a sinking liner Monday that skipped over the glove of diving center fielder Sal Frelick and rolled toward the warning track. With great, long strides, the 6-foot-5 De La Cruz shifted into hyperdrive on his way to second base and legged out his first inside-the-park home run at 30 feet per second. He rounded the bases in a shade under 15 seconds.

“When I saw him miss that ball, I said ‘I’m going home.’" De La Cruz said. “No matter what happens, I’m going home.”

Two innings before his homer in the 10-8 Reds win, De La Cruz crushed a 3-2 sinker from J.B. Bukauskas 450 feet off the top of the batter's eye behind center field. He walked halfway to first, tossing his bat away nonchalantly while admiring the arc.

In the fourth inning, De La Cruz scored from first base on a bunt. In Wednesday night's loss to Milwaukee, his homer into the left-field seats was clocked off the bat at 110.4 mph.

The Reds lost two of three to their NL Central rivals, but De La Cruz had six hits, three homers, four RBIs and six runs along with a stolen base. He struck out only once.

“That kid over there,” Milwaukee manager Pat Murphy said, "he's pretty special."

De La Cruz had hit in 11 of 12 games this season entering Friday and has reached base in 17 consecutive games dating to Sept. 26. He's raised his average to .318 with a 1.034 OPS.

Last July 8 at Milwaukee, the audacious De La Cruz made highlight reels by stealing second, third and home in the span of two pitches.

“The exciting, fun part is to watch Elly run, which is incredible." Reds manager David Bell said. “But at the same time, we're looking at the at-bats he had to get into those positions. He's working so hard at it. It's nice to see it pay off.”

The lanky, switch-hitting De La Cruz was a sensation as soon as he was promoted to the majors. He struck out a lot, diving at sliders down and away. His fielding is still a work in progress, although his throws to first are among the fastest in the majors.

De La Cruz smiles often while playing and celebrating with reckless joy. He's the first one waiting to exchange flying high-fives with teammates after wins. A Spanish speaker, he's trying to improve his English because he says he wants to be able to communicate better with the fans, who can't get enough of him.

“I enjoy every moment,” he said.

He also brings a spark to the clubhouse.

“I think Cincinnati is truly blessed with a real superstar," Reds outfielder Will Benson said. “He doesn’t change, regardless of what he’s going through. He’s a genuine treat to be around.”

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Mitch Stacy, The Associated Press