Near-perfect game comes less than a year after no-no against Pirates
CINCINNATI -- Before Homer Bailey took the mound for the eighth inning on Tuesday night, it was obvious to anyone inside Great American Ball Park that something special was happening. The 27-year-old right-hander was working on a no-hitter against the Giants, and as a result, there was a buzz not found during an ordinary early-July game.
But Bailey -- calm, cool and collected -- knew this feeling. It was fewer than 10 months ago that he no-hit the Pirates in Pittsburgh, and the memory of that game was still fresh in his mind.
"Here we go again, I guess," Bailey thought to himself. "It's something I've already done, so I knew what to expect."
Whether his past experience making history played any part in his success on Tuesday, Bailey finished the game as if he knew exactly what he was doing, delivering the 16th no-hitter in franchise history in a 3-0 win.
Bailey's no-hitter means the first 10,000 MLB.TV subscribers who visit MLB.com/Dominos on Wednesday can score a free Domino's two-topping medium handmade pan pizza.
At the start of this season, Domino's and Major League Baseball Advanced Media announced the "DomiNoNo" offer to all subscribers of MLB.TV, the Internet's longest running and most prolific live video subscription service. The offer is good for the first two no-hitters of this season, so there will be one more chance in 2013. It is for carryout only, and the code must be claimed and redeemed within five days, starting at 3 p.m. ET the first business day following the no-hitter.
Bailey became the first pitcher since fellow Texan Nolan Ryan in 1974 and '75 to throw two no-hitters without another big league pitcher accomplishing the feat between his. Bailey -- who has allowed one hit over 16 innings, striking out 19, in his last two starts against the Giants -- also joined Mark Buehrle, Roy Halladay and Justin Verlander as the only active pitchers with multiple no-hitters.
"This one's a little different, being in Cincinnati," Bailey said. "We just kind of went one pitch at a time. At the end, I just kind of looked at the glove and threw it as hard as I could, I guess."
In attaining his rare accomplishment, Bailey was masterful, weaving his way through the Giants lineup with ease and efficiency. It took him just 109 pitches to finish the no-hitter, which included nine strikeouts and one walk -- the only blemish keeping Bailey from perfection.
"He just overpowered us," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "That's impressive. He had a great fastball, and he used it and went right through us. ... It was a pretty easy no-hitter. We hit a couple of balls decent, but that was impressive. He was throwing 97 [mph] in the last inning and located all night."
For six innings, Bailey was so effective that the possibility of a no-hitter was more of an afterthought than anything else. After striking out the side in the top of the sixth, Bailey headed to the seventh in pursuit of a perfect game, having retired the first 18 batters he faced.
In the first at-bat of the seventh, though, Bailey found himself in a full count with Gregor Blanco. The next pitch was a four-seam fastball that leaked inside for ball four.
"I thought he had the stuff to do it," said catcher Ryan Hanigan, who was also behind the plate for Bailey's no-no in Pittsburgh. "Don't get me wrong, we're super grateful and happy for this, but he had the stuff to [throw a perfect game], and that at-bat just got a little bit away from him, I think."
Other than when Bailey closed the deal in the ninth, the seventh inning turned out to be the most exciting and dramatic stanza of the game. Two batters after the walk that foiled the perfect game, a soft grounder to first base off the bat of Buster Posey almost cost Bailey the no-hitter.
After contact, Bailey thought first baseman Joey Votto was going to catch the ball in the air, so the right-hander was late moving toward the bag once he saw it bounce. Votto then made a snap decision and threw the ball to third baseman Todd Frazier to get Blanco, allowing Posey to reach on a fielder's choice.
"That would have been a sad way to lose a no-hitter," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "Joey had the presence of mind to get the lead runner and preserve the no-hitter via the force."
After striking out Pablo Sandoval to end the inning, Bailey moved on to the eighth, and the excitement began to grow as the Reds held a three-run lead thanks to a Votto sac fly in the first and a Brandon Phillips two-run homer in the sixth, making the outcome of the game less in doubt than what Bailey was trying to accomplish.
"I'm trying to be cool," Baker said. "Everybody is nervous. You try not to say anything about it. You try to do the same things. I might say, 'Hey, Homer, go ahead and get down,' just like I was telling him every inning."
Bailey cruised through the eighth inning on seven pitches. That also happened to be when Baker became the most nervous, not because of Bailey, but because the P.A. announcer at Great American Ball Park started to play audio highlights. First, it was Votto's grand slam on Mother's Day last season.
"Then, they said, 'Homer just pitched a no-hitter,'" Baker recalled hearing. "I was like, 'Oh, no, this is not the right time.' Somebody has to talk to that P.A. guy. These guys, including myself, are superstitious about stuff like that. Nobody talks about it."
On Tuesday night, anyway, superstitions were meaningless.
With virtually the entire crowd on its feet, Bailey forced Brandon Crawford into a groundout before striking out pinch-hitter Tony Abreu on a 97-mph fastball.
Then, Bailey took on the batter that spoiled his bid for a perfect game two innings earlier. This time, Blanco hit a ground ball to Frazier, who calmly threw to first, prompting a burst of fireworks and eruptions from the crowd and the Reds' dugout.
"Definitely, to be here in front of this crowd really meant a lot," Bailey said. "The ball went to Frazier, and any time it's put in play in those situations, you get a little bit nervous. But once Joey squezed it, it was all over."
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com.