David Homer Bailey, the 26-year-old son of a LaGrange, Texas, chicken rancher, threw several cartons full of eggs at the Pirates in Pittsburgh on Friday night during a tense and dramatic 1-0 victory.
A no-hitter. A 115-pitch piece of history.
The first no-hitter by a Cincinnati Reds pitcher since Tom Browning’s perfect game in 1988 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
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The 15th no-hitter in the long, long, long history of the Cincinnati Reds.
The first no-hitter by a Reds right-hander since Tom Seaver in 1978.
The first no-hitter thrown against the Pittsburgh Pirates since Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1971.
Tom Browning. Tom Seaver. Bob Gibson. Pitching legends. And now Bailey’s name is linked with them.
“It is surreral, I can’t believe it happened,” said Bailey.
It has been a long, rutty trail for the Reds’ No. 1 draft pick in 2004, a long maturation process for the man who was only 19 when he made his first major league pitch. And there were times when fans wondered why the Reds wasted a first-round draft pick on a guy who goes by the first name of Homer, something a pitcher wants to avoid.
While his first name is David, Bailey goes by his middle name of Homer is honor of his grandfather.
Bailey has come of age in 2012. The no-hitter was his career best 13th win and he matched his career high with 10 strikeouts on this memorable evening on the banks of the Allegheny River.
“My adrenaline was pumping in the ninth because some of my pitches
were running up out of the zone because I was trying to put a little
extra on it,” Bailey said. “I told myself to just back off and make the
pitch, one pitch at a time, try to get a ground ball or a pop-up.”
Only two Pirates reached base in the game. Clint Barmes ripped one off the glove of third baseman Scott Rolen in the third inning and Rolen was charged with an error. And Bailey walked Andrew McCutchen with one out in the seventh inning.
A few balls were hit solidly, but nothing close to a hit. Todd Frazier, playing left field for only the sixth time this year and the first time since June 28 in San Francisco, made a long run to snag Alex Presley’s fly ball down the left field line.
Two balls were hit hard in the eighth, a line drive to left right at Frazier, then a line drive right at Rolen by Pedro Alvarez. Rolen, playing in the shortstop spot on an overshift, leaped to snag Alvarez’s hump-backed liner.
The ninth inning was a breeze, although it was evident Bailey was feeling the load, puffing his cheeks in and out before every pitch.
Pinch-hitter Brock Holt struck out. Pinch-hitter Mike McKendry flied to left and Presley popped to second baseman Brandon Phillips to end it as pandemonium erupted on the field.
And the no-hitter was necessary. Bailey was matched against A.J. Burnett for the fourth time this season and Burnett was 3-1 against the Reds with a 2.36 ERA.
The Reds filled the bases with no outs in the first inning against Burnett and got only one run. Todd Frazier hit a sacrifice fly before Jay Bruce grounded into a double play.
Bailey guarded that one run like soldiers guard the palace gate.
Maybe when the Reds leave PNC, they should steal the pitching mound. Bailey, who struggles at home because he says he doesn’t like the mound at Great American, is 5-0 for his career against the Pirates.
Bailey was excited, but humble and thankful for what transpired.
“You really have to tip your hat to A.J. Burnett because we’ve gone back-and-forth four times this year, had some real battles together. He pitched one hell of a game.”
And he didn’t forget his teammates.
“And my hat is off to Ryan Hanigan behind the plate (catcher) because it was cold and I didn’t have my best stuff, but somehow we managed to go out there and make really good pitches.”
And the defense?
“Just like it has been all year, the defense covered my back, unbelievably good. They are really the best in the game, make a pitcher look really good,” he said.
Even though the Reds have clinched the National League Central, victories are still wanted and needed.
“I just kept trying to put up zeroes because A.J. has done so well against us,” said Bailey. “We’re trying to get the best record in the National League (to get the No. 1 seed in the playoffs), so my whole thought process was trying to keep my team in the game and put up zeroes because we only had one run.”
It was a winning thought process, a no-hit thought process.
And one wonders. Bailey is scheduled to be the No. 4 pitcher in the playoffs, Game 4 in Cincinnati. With Bailey so effective on the road and with his dislike of the home hill, maybe they might want to consider pitching him in Game 2, which will be on the road.
Bailey is a true road warrior — 9-2 on the road with a 2.45 ERA and 4-8 at home with a 5.16 ERA.
It was Bailey’s first professional no-hitter, but he smiled and said, “Oh, I’ve pitched a lot of no-hitters in the bullpen.”