DETROIT -- Homer Bailey has five quality starts for the Reds, and in each one, the team hasn't gotten the win. But Tuesday's 2-1 loss to the Tigers at Comerica Park wasn't your garden-variety quality start.Bailey delivered an eight-inning complete game in his best performance of a trying 2018 season.
DETROIT -- Homer Bailey has five quality starts for the Reds, and in each one, the team hasn't gotten the win. But Tuesday's 2-1 loss to the Tigers at Comerica Park wasn't your garden-variety quality start.
Bailey delivered an eight-inning complete game in his best performance of a trying 2018 season. He allowed two earned runs on three hits with one walk and six strikeouts. It was his seventh career complete game, and his first since 2014. But it was the first time he went the distance and took a loss.
"Usually if you go complete game, you're going to try and get a win out of it," said Bailey, who threw 111 pitches. "You know what? It's all right. We were right there in it the whole time. It's just the way it goes."
Tigers lefty starter Matthew Boyd was just a little better. Over his eight scoreless innings, Boyd scattered four hits with one walk and seven strikeouts.
Bailey had a 6.68 ERA in his first 12 starts of the season and was about to endure a move to the bullpen after his May 28 start at Arizona. But a few days later, he was placed on the disabled list with right knee inflammation -- his fourth consecutive year with a DL stint. He had three elbow surgeries between 2014-17.
In two starts since his July 24 return, Bailey has a 2.45 ERA with four earned runs and eight hits over 14 2/3 innings. He credited his catchers and good mechanics, but also improved health.
"I think, probably as of a few weeks ago, I finally feel like I have a lot of things behind me -- whether it's injury, or getting back to feeling the way that I know I can pitch and the way I have in the past," Bailey said. "It's just confidence, knowing health is there every time I take the mound. I feel good."
During his last start against the Cardinals, Bailey allowed two earned runs over 6 2/3 innings, and the Reds went on to lose in 11 innings.
After he retired his first 11 batters Tuesday, Bailey's first hit came when Niko Goodrum connected on a 1-0 fastball up and over the plate for a homer to right-center field.
"If you're going to be in the zone and attack hitters, sometimes those are just things that come with it," Bailey said.
After the next 10 of 11 were retired, Detroit's next hit didn't come until the eighth inning, when John Hicks hit a leadoff single. With two outs, Mike Gerber collected his first big league hit with an RBI double that scored Jose Iglesias.
Bailey never seemed to labor as the 2-hour, 18-minute game moved briskly. He had fewer swing-and-misses than his previous start, but he also had three-ball counts only four times against Tigers hitters.
"Early contact in the count usually results in less swings and misses," catcher Tucker Barnhart said. "We got a lot of early outs, which is why he was able to pitch into the eighth."
According to Statcast™, Bailey's fastball averaged 93.8 mph, but he topped out at 95.6 mph.
"You can tell the old finish on his fastball, the life that when Homer's right, the life is there to finish through the zone," Barnhart explained. "His curveball is a lot sharper than it was, his slider when he's right is a lot shorter and it's a lot shorter meaning the amount of lateral break that it has. He was throwing all four pitches for strikes tonight, he was able to elevate some and keep guys on their toes and pitch offensively and he threw a hell of a game."
Cincinnati finally got on the scoreboard in the ninth inning against closer Shane Greene. Phillip Ervin hit a leadoff triple and scored on Eugenio Suarez's one-out sacrifice fly to right field.
"That's two in a row he's just been outstanding and looks like his old self," Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said. "Their guy threw a good ballgame also. He was able to hold us down. But Homer was just outstanding. It's a shame we just didn't have a good offensive night."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Out at home: In the second inning with one out on a Barnhart fly out to center field, Suarez tagged up and tried to score but was thrown out on JaCoby Jones' throw to the plate for the inning-ending double play. Riggleman had no issue with the slower Suarez trying to score.
"[Third base coach Billy] Hatcher has to send him there," Riggleman said. "If there's nobody out, you maybe think about not sending him. With one out, you've got to send him there. He made a good throw."
Missed chance: The Reds had an even bigger chance to score on Boyd in the fourth inning after Ervin and Joey Votto hit back-to-back one-out doubles. But as Votto's ball carried to deep right field before going off the wall, Ervin waited near second base instead of stepping toward third base, and he was unable to score on the hit. The missed opportunity hurt, as Suarez was called out on strikes and Barnhart popped up after Scooter Gennett's two-out walk loaded the bases.
"On that ball, if there's one out, he's got to get off the base far enough," Riggleman said. "If it's nobody out, you're tagging. He made a mistake."
HE SAID IT
"I didn't think we had a better option there. The way he was pitching, I didn't see a better option to get that out there as to just let Homer keep going." -- Riggleman, on letting Bailey finish the eighth inning rather than using the bullpen
The two-game series concludes with Wednesday's 1:10 p.m. ET game vs. the Tigers at Comerica Park. Sal Romano will pitch for the Reds against Detroit's Mike Fiers. Romano's last game was a one-batter relief appearance on Saturday vs. the Phillies, when he induced an inning-ending double play in a 6-2 win. His last start, July 24 vs. the Cardinals, was a strong six innings with two earned runs and seven hits in a 7-3 victory.
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.