Homer Bailey threw another no-hitter.
The Cincinnati Reds pitcher who as recent as a year ago carried the burden of a first-rounder who might never be what people tried to imagine, and then began to pitch like it, at 26 years old, after all.
That Homer Bailey. He threw another no-hitter.
The Reds pitcher who took the ball on a night last September in Pittsburgh and over 2½ hours was as close to perfect without being so, and rose his arms jubilantly over the 279th no-hitter in major-league history.
That Homer Bailey. He did it again.
He threw the 280th no-hitter in major-league history on Tuesday night, this at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, in a 3-0 victory over the San Francisco Giants. He became the first since Nolan Ryan in the mid-‘70s to post them consecutively, and the 31st to throw more than one no-hitter.
Against the Giants, riding a fastball whose velocity was deep into the 90’s in the final innings, Bailey walked one batter – Gregor Blanco, on a full-count fastball that rode inside to lead off the seventh inning.
The rest was part surgical, part bludgeoning.
“Going into the eighth and ninth,” Bailey told reporters in Cincinnati, “I just said, ‘Why not? Here we go again.’”
Over deep breaths and long exhales, Bailey threw the last of his 109 pitches with two outs in the ninth. Blanco chopped a ground ball to third baseman Todd Frazier, who threw to first baseman Joey Votto. Bailey rushed to embrace catcher Ryan Hanigan, who also caught the no-hitter against the Pirates in September. Bailey wore a bath of red punch, and didn’t fight it when teammates attempted to hoist him into the air.
After a run of seven no-hitters in 2012, three the season before, and six the season before that, the no-hitter had begun to feel rare again. Numerous attempts had been spoiled in the eighth and ninth innings this season. This time, Bailey carved through the Giants' lineup. Only once did he appear in danger of losing the no-hitter. In the seventh, with Blanco at second base, Buster Posey hit a soft looper to the right side of the infield. Bailey was slow off the mound and Votto was too far from the bag to make the play on his own. Blanco, however, had paused to ensure the ball would drop, started toward third, and was thrown out there. The apparent infield single was instead a fielder’s choice.
Bailey is one of four active pitchers to throw more than one no-hitter. Justin Verlander, Mark Buehrle and Roy Halladay are the others. Only five pitchers have thrown more – Ryan (7), Sandy Koufax (4), Bob Feller (3), Larry Corcoran (3) and Cy Young (3).
“To be able to share it with these guys again,” Bailey told reporters, “most of them were here last year, but it’s such a big thrill for me that they get to be a part of it, with the coaching staff, and even Dusty, because the last one, he wasn’t there. So for him to be here and see this one, it really makes me feel good.”
In the final couple innings, manager Dusty Baker spent much of his time hanging over the dugout rail, staring out at Bailey, seemingly stifling a grin. He’d spent some of last September being treated for an irregular heartbeat, which forced him to miss Bailey’s no-hitter and the Reds’ NL Central clincher.
Bailey and Baker shared a long hug late Tuesday night. Players celebrated around them. And the crowd at Great American Ball Park stood, cheered, and refused to leave until Bailey did.
“I can’t stop smiling,” Baker said. “He was dealing. He had a dynamite fastball. He was never in trouble. Dang, what a game! I’m so glad for Homer. He’s worked so hard to get to this point.”
The seventh overall draft pick in 2004, Bailey’s progress was at times slow. It was ineffectiveness. Or it was injury. He pitched his first full major-league season in 2012, when he started 33 games and finished with a 13-10 record and a 3.68 ERA. He then allowed one run over seven innings to the Giants in Game 3 of the NL division series, a game the Reds would lose in 10 innings.
He is 5-6 this season, but has pitched better than the record reflects. His ERA is 3.57.
If he was ever better than he was Tuesday night, then it was on a Friday night late last September. But Tuesday night was so, so good.
“He was throwing 97 the whole game,” Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips told reporters. “I was like, ‘Wow, Homer let his inner Batman out.’ It was amazing the way he pitched. God bless him. You don’t see that much, a guy throwing no-hitters in back-to-back years.”
Maybe you were expecting someone else. But, no, it was Homer Bailey.
That Homer Bailey.
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