Homer's odyssey: Reds righty no-hits Pirates

Homer's odyssey: Reds righty no-hits Pirates

Homer's odyssey: Reds righty no-hits Pirates
PITTSBURGH -- In the middle of pitching what would be the best game of his career, Reds pitcher Homer Bailey was trying to perform some simple arithmetic.

And then he realized the sum of an entirely different equation.

"Honestly, I figured it out about the sixth because I think I needed five or six innings for 200 innings," Bailey said. "I happened to look up there to see how many innings I had gone, and looked and there were a couple of zeros up there. I said 'Wow, OK, this is happening.'"

Yes it was and yes, a no-hitter did happen on Friday night. Bailey's no-hitter was the seventh in the Major Leagues this season, coming in the Reds' 1-0 win over the Pirates.

The final play of the game was when Alex Presley lifted Bailey's 115th pitch of the night for a routine popup to shallow center field behind second base. Brandon Phillips made the catch without issue. Bailey was met at the mound with a hug by catcher Ryan Hanigan, followed by teammates, as 34,796 fans at PNC Park applauded.

"That last out, I was thinking, 'Please don't hit the ball to me, please don't hit the ball to me,'" Phillips said. "Catching the last out, it means a lot. It's something that every time you look on TV, they're going to show me catching the last out. I'm glad to be a part of history. I'm very happy for Homer also. He pitched his butt off."

It was the 15th no-hitter in club history, but Bailey was the first to no-hit an opponent since Tom Browning threw a perfect game against the Dodgers on Sept. 16, 1988, at Riverfront Stadium.

"Oh, wow. This is one of those real, real special moments to experience," said Reds acting manager Chris Speier, who is filling in while Dusty Baker recovers from a minor stroke. "I've been involved in a few, but this was really nerve racking. ... I'm just really proud of him. He's done a great job, especially against this team in this ballpark."

Bailey, 26, did what he usually does to the Pirates at PNC Park in dominating the Pirates. In five lifetime starts at Pittsburgh, he is 5-0 with a 1.40 ERA and all three complete games of his career.

But this was no ordinary complete game as Bailey gave up only one walk while striking out 10.

"He got the true no-hitter," Reds left fielder Todd Frazier said. "There were no true surprises about it, honestly."

The Pirates hadn't been dealt a no-hitter since Hall of Famer Bob Gibson did it for the Cardinals on Aug. 14, 1971.

The Reds scored the game's lone run in the first inning against Pirates starter A.J. Burnett after loading the bases on singles by Phillips and Zack Cozart and a Joey Votto walk. Frazier got the run in with a sacrifice fly to right field. The threat ended when Jay Bruce grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.

Burnett gave up a leadoff single in the second and escaped with another double play and did a good job to avoid danger as he sprayed seven hits over eight innings with only the one early run. He walked one and struck out five.

With only the slightest of leads to support him, and his track record at PNC Park on his side -- Bailey could not be outdone.

"Before I recognized that a no-hitter was going on, the whole time I'm just thinking, 'Put up a zero,'" Bailey said. "If a guy gets on, try to get a double play, make this pitch, get this out. A.J., has done pretty well against us."

Through the first six innings, Bailey had only one ball leave the infield on Presley's fly out to Frazier near the left-field line that ended the third. Garrett Jones flied to right field to end the seventh and pinch-hitter Travis Snider flied out to left to begin the eighth.

Bailey's first baserunner came at the start of the third, when third baseman Scott Rolen unsuccessfully tried to backhand Clint Barmes' ground ball on a short hop. The ball scooted away and Rolen was charged with an error immediately by the official scorer.

"Tough night," Burnett said. "The play at third could've gone either way. The scorer doesn't like the Pirates; we've seen that all year. But you can't take anything away from Homer."

"At that point, it didn't really matter," Bailey said. "I tried to go up there and put up some zeros, knowing A.J. wasn't exactly going to give up a bunch of runs."

The next 12 Pirates were retired in order until Andrew McCutchen drew a one-out walk from Bailey in the seventh. McCutchen stole second base, but was thrown out a pitch later by Hanigan trying to swipe third.

"Everybody knows McCutchen is fast," Bailey said. "I didn't care if he stole second or third, I was just trying not to give up a hit, trying not to get him to score. A lot of that credit has to go to Hanigan. I'm not always the quickest to the plate. He makes me look good."

Bailey's key to success was his fastball, which made up a vast majority of his pitches. Over the final two innings, the only non-fastball was a slider to Pedro Alvarez that was lined out to third base to end the eighth.

While there were no highlight catches in the game, that play showed there were some strong maneuvers made behind the scenes.

"We had the infield shift on and there was a line drive right to Scott," Bailey said. "If he's not there, it goes right between short and third. I thought that was it and there he was standing there."

With three outs to go and 99 pitches entering the bottom of the ninth, Bailey struck out pinch-hitter Brock Holt on a 1-2 fastball, 92 mph and high above the strike zone. Pinch-hitter Michael McKenry worked a 3-2 count before popping out to shallow left field, where Chris Heisey called off two others to make the catch.

How did Bailey keep his composure during the ninth?

"Is that what it looked like? I knew it was going on," he said. "You'd be a fool to say you didn't know it was going on. A couple of pitches ran way up -- you're getting a little too excited. You just have to dial it back sometimes and try to make pitches and trust [Hanigan] knows what he's doing."

And then came Presley, and then came Bailey's moment of history.

It was a strong way to start the final road trip of the regular season as the 95-62 National League Central champions prepare for the playoffs. The win evened the Reds with the Nationals for the best record in baseball and tied the teams for the potential top seed in the NL playoff bracket.

Like the clinch of the division last weekend, Baker was not present to watch a special moment. Both Baker and general manager Walt Jocketty sent congratulatory messages through pitching coach Bryan Price.

"[Baker] is there with us every day, whether we know it or not," said Bailey, who is 13-10 with a 3.75 ERA in 32 starts over 204 innings. "We're always quoting him. We're always thinking about him. He's always with us in a way."

A first-round pick by the Reds in 2004, Bailey has long been one of the club's prized prospects, but hasn't had a season where he put it all together. On Friday, he certainly had it all going.

"I've thrown a bunch of no-hitters in my bullpen [sessions]," Bailey joked. "What is no-hit stuff, really? There's a lot of things that go into it. ... So many things have to go in your favor. One little bloop, one miscue, one wrong positioning by an infielder, there's your hit. A lot of it just has to come down to luck. We were able to make good pitches but we were very fortunate, also."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.