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July 3, 2013

What You Need to Know

Bailed Out By a Homer-iffic Performance

by Daniel Rathman


The Tuesday Takeaway
The list of pitchers who, at any point since 1900, could claim to have thrown the two most recent major-league no-hitters is short: From 1908 through the early hours of Tuesday evening, it included only Addie Joss, Johnny Vander Meer—who notched his in back-to-back starts—Allie Reynolds, Warren Spahn, Dean Chance, and Nolan Ryan, who enjoyed those bragging rights twice. Even shorter was the list of pitchers who could boast two career no-hitters in which they walked no more than one batter: That one featured Cy Young, Virgil Trucks, Sandy Koufax, Mark Buehrle, and Roy Halladay.

The aforementioned sextet and quintet both welcomed a new member on Tuesday night: Homer Bailey, who no-hit the Giants in a 3-0 Reds win at Great American Ball Park, 277 days after holding the Pirates without a knock in a 1-0 squeaker at PNC Park.

Bailey’s masterpiece marked the first no-hitter in the history of Cincinnati’s decade-old yard and the first thrown within the city limits since Tom Browning’s perfect game on September 16, 1988 at Riverfront Stadium. He became the first pitcher to no-hit the Giants since Kevin Millwood did it for the Phillies on April 27, 2003. And, over the course of the 109-pitch gem, he displayed the maturation that has turned him into one of the National League’s top-tier starters.

Of course, having electric stuff didn’t hurt:

Bailey’s four-seam and two-seam fastballs, which averaged 94 and 93 mph this year, respectively, in the outings preceding yesterday’s start, came in a tick higher than they usually do, increasing as the 27th out neared, and bouncing with adrenaline into the 97-mph range in the ninth. His slider sat in its usual high-80s home, touching 90-91 mph on occasion, and Bailey’s command of the breaking pitch—evidenced by the 19 strikes that he earned in 22 tries—was outstanding.  Those two offerings, three if you separate the fastballs, stymied the Giants from beginning to end. Bailey, who generally employs a more balanced off-speed-pitch mix, threw only two changeups and one curveball. He simply did not need them.

In the last three innings, Bailey hardly even needed the slider. Thirty-four of his last 40 pitches were fastballs, and though he walked Gregor Blanco to begin the top of the seventh, the only frame in which he exceeded 15 pitches, the middle of the Giants order could not handle the heat. “He just overpowered us,” manager Bruce Bochy told reporters after the game, summing it all up with four precise words.

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