CINCINNATI — Homer Bailey fretted for a moment as first baseman Joey Votto reached to pluck the ball out of the air for the final out. What next? Raise both arms in celebration.
Bailey has this no-hitter celebration down pat — just like his idol, Nolan Ryan.
Another hard-throwin’ Texan who wears No. 34 made some no-hit history Tuesday night. Bailey threw his second in 10 months and led the Cincinnati Reds’ infield celebration with arms raised after a 3-0 victory over the San Francisco Giants.
There was a bit of been-there, done-that in the humid night air.
“It’s something I’ve already done, so I knew what to expect,” Bailey said of his easy-as-could-be step into rare territory.
Bailey became the third Reds pitcher with more than one no-hitter, joining Jim Maloney and Johnny Vander Meer — still the only big leaguer to toss two in a row. Bailey beat the Pirates 1-0 in Pittsburgh last Sept. 28 and got another 17 starts later.
This one was at home with 27,509 fans standing and chanting “Homer! Homer!” as he finished it off in a tidy 102 pitches with one walk and nine strikeouts. The defending World Series champions had only one moment when they thought they might get a hit.
“It was a pretty easy no-hitter,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “We didn’t hit too many balls hard. There weren’t any tough plays. We only hit a couple balls decent. He was really overmatching us all night.”
Yes, it was reminiscent of that Hall of Famer from Texas who holds the record with seven no-hitters. And they now have more than just their home state in common.
Bailey threw the last of the majors’ seven no-hitters last season, and now the first of 2013. The last pitcher to throw one no-hitter and then another before anyone else in the majors accomplished the feat was Ryan, according to STATS. Baseball’s career strikeout king did it for the California Angels on Sept. 28, 1974, against Minnesota, and June 1, 1975, vs. Baltimore.
“Obviously being from Texas and what a legend he is,” said Bailey, who wears No. 34 in tribute to his boyhood hero. “To do it once is extra special. To do it twice — I don’t really have the words for it right now.”
“He comes from the state of Texas that has produced a lot of no-hitters,” said Reds manager Dusty Baker, who made the final out in Ryan’s fifth no-hitter. “It means a lot — and he’s still got some time left.”
Bailey (5-6) dominated the defending champs, who are going through quite a slump. It was so tidy that there weren’t many close calls.
He walked Gregor Blanco leading off the seventh, the only Giants batter to reach base. Blanco advanced on a groundout, then made the out that settled San Francisco’s only close call.
Buster Posey hit a soft one-hopper that pulled Votto away from first base. Bailey got a slow break off the mound to cover the bag, setting up what would have been a close play. Maybe Posey beats Bailey to the base for an infield hit.
“That would have been a sad way to lose a no-hitter,” Baker said.
Instead, Votto saw Blanco break for third and threw him out.
“Joey had a great heads-up play. I was almost a little late getting to the bag,” Bailey said.
Two innings later, Bailey finished it off smoothly. He jumped to glove Brandon Crawford’s high comebacker, struck out Tony Abreu and retired Blanco on a grounder to third baseman Todd Frazier.
“Going into the eighth and ninth I just said, `Why the hell not?’ Here we go again,” Bailey said.
Justin Verlander, Mark Buehrle and Roy Halladay are the only other active pitchers with a pair of no-hitters. Halladay, of course, threw one of his in the postseason against the Reds in 2010.
When Votto caught the throw for the final out, Bailey raised both arms in triumph, reminiscent of that grand moment in Pittsburgh last September, then hugged catcher Ryan Hanigan. This time, Baker got to celebrate too — he was in a hospital in Chicago being treated for a mini-stroke last September.
Teammates poured onto the field to celebrate and doused Bailey with a red sports drink.
It was the 16th no-hitter in Cincinnati history. No Reds pitcher had thrown a no-no at home since Tom Browning’s 1-0 perfect game against the Dodgers at Riverfront Stadium on Sept. 16, 1988.
Bailey became the third pitcher in the history of baseball’s first professional franchise to get more than one.
Vander Meer threw the only back-to-back no-hitters in major league history in 1938, beating the Boston Braves and Brooklyn Dodgers. Maloney had a no-hitter at Wrigley Field in 1965 and one at home against Houston in 1969.
The Giants were no-hit for the 16th time. The last three pitchers to hold them hitless were all named Kevin — LA’s Gross in 1992, Florida’s Brown in 1997 and Philadelphia’s Millwood in 2003.
Bailey was facing a lineup in a deep funk — two runs or less in nine of San Francisco’s last 12 games.
Last year was the season of the no-hitter, with seven in all, which tied the modern record. By this point, five had been thrown. So far in 2013, there had been only two close calls.
Texas’ Yu Darvish was working on a perfect game when he gave up a two-out single in the ninth to Houston’s Marwin Gonzalez during a 7-0 win on April 2. Detroit’s Anibal Sanchez gave up a one-out single in the ninth to Minnesota’s Joe Mauer in a 6-0 win on May 24.
Bailey became the first to take one all the way this year.
Votto had a sacrifice fly off Tim Lincecum (4-9), and Brandon Phillips hit a two-run homer for all the help Bailey would need.
Lincecum had some of his best moments last season in Cincinnati. Relegated to the bullpen after losing 15 games during the regular season, he went 4 1-3 innings in relief to help the Giants win Game 4 and, eventually, their division series, the first step toward a World Series title.
But there was no stopping Bailey this time.
Shin-Soo Choo hit Lincecum’s fifth pitch deep to right. Hunter Pence jumped above the wall and had the ball deflect off the heel of his glove back into play. The umpires initially ruled it a home run, but overturned the call after a review and gave Choo a double. He eventually scored on Votto’s sac fly.
Phillips hit a drive into the first row in left field in the sixth inning, his 12th homer for a 3-0 lead.
NOTES: Bailey became the 31st pitcher to throw at least two no-hitters. … The Giants moved LHP Mike Kickham into the bullpen, a day after he took his third straight loss. The rookie lasted only 2 2-3 innings in an 8-1 loss to the Reds. Bochy was noncommittal about how he’d reconfigure his staff again when RHP Chad Gaudin comes off the DL from a bruised elbow. He’s eligible to return on Saturday.
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