When you talk no-hitters in Cincinnati comparisons always come down to the incomparable. In 1938, Johnny Vander Meer became the only Major League pitcher in history to throw no-hitters in consecutive games. He was playing for the Reds.
Homer Bailey did not match that accomplishment against the San Francisco Giants Tuesday night, but he did put himself in elite company by throwing the second big-league no-hitter of his career in the 3-0 victory at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. Bailey threw a near-the-end-of-the-season no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates last September, too.
The right-hander’s smoothly pitched ball game Tuesday was the 278th no-hitter in Major League history. It was the first one of the 2013 season in either league, which means Bailey has pitched the last two Major League no-hitters.
The victory over the Giants was the 16th official no-hitter in team history and it took only 109 pitches to complete. Vander Meer and Jim Maloney also have two of them, although before baseball redefined no-hitters Maloney was credited with three. Maloney no-hit the Chicago Cubs in 1965 and the Houston Astros in 1969 and he also pitched no-hit ball through 10 innings against the New York Mets in 1965, but lost the game 1-0 in 11 innings and that no-hitter was later scrubbed from the list.
Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan is the all-time leader with seven no-hitters. Players with more than two no-hitters usually come with the Hall-of-Fame designation. Sandy Koufax threw four. Bob Feller threw three. So did Cy Young. Lesser light Larry Corcoran, a 19th century pitcher, also threw three.
Fewer than 30 other pitchers have ever tossed two no-hitters in their careers. Among them are Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers, Mark Buehrle of the Toronto Blue Jays, and Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies, who like Bailey are active hurlers. Although most people believe Ryan’s record is untouchable, it should be noted that Feller also fired 12 one-hitters, so he came close fairly often. Rather amazingly, so did Ryan. And Ryan also hurled 18 two-hitters during his career. That means 37 times in his career Ryan permitted two hits or less.
Through six innings Bailey was throwing a perfect game. He walked just one batter, though teammates did support him with some excellent fielding plays to preserve the no-hitter. Gregor Blanco took the base on balls after a 3-2 count in the seventh inning after Bailey set down 18 Giants hitters in a row. Following the walk Bailey retired nine straight Giants to collect the no-hitter.
Despite his excellence in those two recent no-hitters, Bailey is just 5-6 on the season. His earned run average is 3.57 and he has 111 strikeouts, however.
Bailey, 27, is one of the cornerstones of the Reds’ excellent pitching rotation. Bailey carried a 38-33 record into the 2013 season, but it is believed his best years are ahead of him. He is a soft-spoken player who often lets his pitching speak for him. He has been at his most exuberant, naturally, when completing a gem like Tuesday’s.
“To do it once is extremely special,” Bailey said of pitching a big-league no-hitter. “To do it twice is, well, I don’t have the words for it.”
Mostly, the 27,000 fans in the park and Bailey’s teammates did agree on a word for his achievement: “Wow!”