Bailey earning elite credentials with latest gem
Takes second no-no bid into sixth, sets Reds postseason mark with 10 K's
CINCINNATI -- For a few hours on Tuesday night, you wondered.
Is Homer Bailey going to do it again?
No, the Reds right-hander who threw a no-hitter at the Pirates two weeks earlier did not repeat the feat in Game 3 of the National League Division Series. He did not even figure in the decision, a 2-1 Giants win in 10 innings that forced a Game 4 on Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET on TBS.
But Bailey did make another emphatic statement about his ascension into a group of elite pitchers at top of the NL.
"He threw really, really well," said Joey Votto. "It's been his thing lately."
Bailey's thing Tuesday was working seven innings, most of them spent with the Reds and Giants locked in a 1-1 tie. He surrendered a run in the third inning on a hit batsman, a walk, a sacrifice bunt and an Angel Pagan sacrifice fly, but did not allow a hit until Marco Scutaro lined a single past Votto with two outs in the sixth inning.
Bailey struck out 10 batters, including six in a row from the fourth inning into the sixth. He needed only 88 pitches for seven innings before the Reds opted for offense and replaced him with a pinch-hitter.
In other words, Bailey had no-hit stuff.
"I think I had better stuff tonight than I did when I threw a no-hitter," he said.
So was he thinking about another no-hitter?
"I was more aware of the one run as opposed to the one hit," Bailey said.
That lone run spoiled an otherwise notable night:
Bailey's 10 strikeouts set a Reds postseason record, breaking a mark shared by Hod Eller, who struck out nine Chicago White Sox in Game 5 of the 1919 World Series, and Jose Rijo, who struck out nine Oakland A's in Game 4 of the 1990 World Series.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Bailey was the first Reds pitcher to strike out as many as six consecutive batters since Aaron Harang whiffed seven straight Padres in May 2008. Bailey's six consecutive strikeouts tied the Reds postseason record set by Eller amid his nine-strikeout game in the '19 Series.
Since STATS, LLC began tracking pitch counts after 1988, Bailey is only the second pitcher to strike out 10 batters in a postseason game with fewer than 95 pitches. The other was the Padres' Sterling Hitchcock, who logged 11 strikeouts with only 79 pitches in Game 4 of the 1998 NLDS against the Astros. Like Bailey's gem, Hitchcock's came in a series clincher -- against Randy Johnson.
Only three times during the 2012 regular season did a pitcher reach 10 strikeouts on fewer than 90 pitches, and only two of them did it on 88 pitches or fewer, like Bailey. They were the Pirates' James MacDonald on May 17 against the Nationals and the Nationals' Jordan Zimmermann on Aug. 9 against the Astros.
According to MLB's public relations department, Bailey is already the third pitcher in this quartet of Division Series with a 10-strikeout performance -- the Tigers' Justin Verlander and Cardinals' Adam Wainwright were the others. Only the 2010 Division Series round had more double-digit strikeout games, with four.
Bailey credited his fastball location, and the fact he was "on the same page with [catcher Ryan] Hanigan."
"We just attacked hitters," Bailey said. "We executed every possible pitch we could. The atmosphere, you enjoy that, too. I noticed as long as I was out there and then when I was on the bench. You see that kind of atmosphere, the towels and everything, that's pretty cool."
When he stepped into the on-deck circle in the bottom of the seventh inning, with the teams still tied at 1, he knew he would be removed in favor of a pinch-hitter unless the batter at the plate, Drew Stubbs, hit a go-ahead home run.
Stubbs grounded out to shortstop.
"Sometimes it's a tough pill to swallow, but that's just the National League," Bailey said. "Everybody in the National League, every starter, has experienced that before. I'm sure it was a tough decision for Dusty."
Baker had never seen Bailey better.
"I didn't see his no-hitter because I was in the hospital," Baker said. "He's getting better and better, and that's what we had hoped. He had a number of strikeouts. It looked like they weren't seeing the ball very well, and he was ahead of the count for the most part."
The Reds have been waiting for this kind of pitching from their 2004 first-round Draft pick. But Bailey has been dogged by injuries so far in his career, particularly in 2011, when he spent a significant portion of the season on the disabled list with shoulder issues.
This season, he set career bests in starts (33), wins (13), innings (208), strikeouts (168), ERA (3.68), strikeouts to walks (3.23) and no-hitters -- one. Bailey blanked the Pirates with 10 strikeouts and one walk on Sept. 28 in his next-to-last start of the regular season. It was the 16th no-hitter in club history, but the first since Tom Browning threw a perfect game against the Dodgers on Sept. 16, 1988, at Riverfront Stadium.
"He's just improved," Votto said. "I don't know if it's this portion of his career where he's making major strides in becoming who many people thought he was going to be, but he looked fantastic. His velocity was up. He competed exceptionally well. He located well. Him and Ryan Hanigan, I think, have a good thing together."
Bailey said the secret to his success was simple.
"I think I'm the same, it's just that I'm healthy," Bailey said.