Bailey overcomes nemesis Cardinals

April was a month to forget for Homer Bailey, but Friday was his third win in five starts in May.

Frank Victores/Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

CINCINNATI — There has been no team Homer Bailey has faced more in his career than the St. Louis Cardinals. No team has been more burdensome for Bailey than the Cardinals.

Friday night was not a Homer Bailey classic outing. He wasn’t overpowering and he struggled at times to finish off batters when he had the advantage. But Bailey battled Friday night. He didn’t always win those individual battles but he won more often than not and that was good enough to help the Reds take the first game of this weekend series, 5-3, at Great American Ball Park.

Bailey went six innings, allowing all three St. Louis runs on eight hits. All eight hits were singles. Only one of those singles produced any runs. Bailey has pitched two no-hitters. Not every game is going to be a no-hitter. Sometimes you have to gut-check wins. That’s what Bailey was able to do on the mound Friday night.

"You just try to limit the damage that they do," said Bailey. "I’ll take eight singles from those guys all of the time. Better than a three-run home run or two-run doubles."

This was the 20th time Bailey started a game against the Cardinals but just the sixth time he and the Reds earned a win against them. St. Louis hitters came into the game with a combined batting average of .333 and a combined slugging percentage of .559 against Bailey. Matt Carpenter is now 15 of 25 against Bailey in his career after getting two singles in three at-bats against him Friday. Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina were each hitting .333 against Bailey while slugging, respectively, .641 and .700 against him.

This was the third time this season Bailey has faced St. Louis. He lasted 4 1/3 innings the first time on April 3, giving up four runs on seven hits. A week later the Cardinals scored another four runs on nine hits against Bailey in five innings. The Reds lost both games.

In a pair of starts against St. Louis last season spanning last August and early September, Bailey didn’t allow a single run while giving the Cardinals just seven hits over 14 1/3 innings.

"With me and them it’s kind of weird; it’s either really good or really bad, unfortunately," said Bailey. "I think that’s what happens when you play teams so much. Today was kind of an in-between, which typically doesn’t happen. I’ve had a couple of games where I went deep into games and didn’t give up any runs or just one run. I’ve had some where I went five (innings) and gave up five (runs). I think that’s just part of it."

Todd Frazier hit his ninth home run of the season, a three-run blast off the batter’s eye in center field, to give the Reds a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the third.

Bailey cruised through the first three innings allowing just one hit but he has had trouble holding leads this season. The Cardinals scored two runs on an Allen Craig single in the top of the fourth inning and the bad vibes were in the air that a bigger inning was on its way. Bailey left two runners stranded, however, by getting Matt Adams to fly out to right field and then striking out Jhonny Peralta.

He stranded two more runners in the fifth inning, getting Holliday to hit into a force play to end the inning, and then got out of a two-on, two-out jam in the sixth inning by picking off Peralta at second base. Bailey and shortstop Zack Cozart worked the pickoff play perfectly.

"You don’t see it a whole lot in baseball anymore but I saw daylight and knew if I made a good throw there was a good chance we’d get him," said Bailey.

Bailey has proven he has the stuff to throw a no-hitter and dominate opponents anytime he takes the ball. That’s not always going to happen. April was a month to forget for Bailey but Friday was his third win in five starts in May. He bounced back from a dreadful start last Sunday in Philadelphia when he didn’t get out of the fourth inning to battle a team he’s had trouble against in the past and give the Reds a chance to win.

"More than anything it’s to have a mix," said manager Bryan Price about Bailey’s pitch selection. "They know our staff. There are not a lot of secrets here. The key with Homer and his success is he’s got to be able to get the accessory pitches over. He established he could drop the curveball in there today and that made a difference."