- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot blogger
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Where to begin? How about with this: No-hitters never get old and if you hear someone saying there are too many of them these days, just walk away. This person is not your friend.
Where to begin? How about pointing out that Homer Bailey now has two career no-hitters, and because he also threw the last no-hitter in the majors last season, he is the first pitcher since Nolan Ryan in 1974 and 1975 to possess the majors’ consecutive no-hitters.
Where to begin? How about that at-bat against Pablo Sandoval in the seventh inning? It was more like two guys riding up on their horses for a jousting match, but instead of lances, Sandoval was yielding his piece of wood and Bailey was yielding a lethal four-seam fastball.
It was a nine-pitch duel, with Bailey firing eight four-seam fastballs up in the zone, Panda fouling off four of them, and then Bailey blowing away Sandoval with a 97 mph heater up around the letters. That out, to end the seventh, was when you got the feeling it was going to happen.
Except Bailey was lucky to even get to Sandoval with the no-hitter still intact. Gregor Blanco had walked on a 3-2 pitch to lead off the inning -- the lone perfection-busting baserunner for the Giants, and their one man to reach scoring position, only to be erased on a fielder’s choice. After Marco Scutaro grounded out to move Blanco to second, Buster Posey was sawed off on a 95 mph four-seamer, sending a little blooper wide of first base. With second baseman Brandon Phillips playing Posey to pull, Joey Votto ranged way to his right to make the play, but Bailey had watched the ball and got a late jump to first base.
Votto momentarily turned to flip the ball to Bailey, but it was going to be a bang-bang play at first, a probable infield single -- no-hitter ruined. Maybe, though, Votto was merely deking Blanco, who had strayed too far off second, making a late break for third after his initial hesitation to see if the ball would be caught in the air. With the no-hitter on the line, Votto rifled the ball to third to get Blanco. Fielder’s choice. Still no hits.
Afterward, Bailey would say it was the seventh inning when he felt he may get the no-hitter. "Joey had a great heads-up play because I was almost a little late getting to the bag," he admitted.
Bailey breezed through a seven-pitch eighth, keeping his pitch count at an easy 96 pitches heading into the final inning.
My notes from the ninth:
Goes out for the ninth, takes a deep breath as he goes into his warm-up pitches. ... Before final warm-up pitch, a little nod toward catcher Ryan Hanigan, as if to say, "Let’s do it." ... Brandon Crawford. ... 96 called strike. ... 95 fouled off. ... 96, high chopper back to Bailey, had to jump to make the play. ... Pinch hitter Tony Abreu. ... Beads of sweat on Bailey's cheekbones below his eyes and on his upper lip, hair wet with sweat. ... Home crowd seems a little nervous, should be louder. ... 96 up high. ... 96 fouled off. ... 96 fouled off. ... Fans want that strikeout. ... 97 high and away. ... 90 slider, fouled off foot. ... Not sure how Abreu even made contact, and camera pans to Dusty Baker, who seems to be thinking the same thing. ... 97 up, swing and miss, blew him away. ... Two outs for Blanco. ... Deep breath from Bailey, release of tension and energy. ... 97 up, called strike, smile from Dusty in the dugout. ... Bailey looks in; nothing like the stare and focused intensity of a pitcher in the zone. Nods head, 97 up fouled off. ... Camera pans to Shin-Soo clapping his glove in the outfield, fans loud now, hoping Bailey feeds off them for more pitches. ... Shakes off Ryan Hanigan, 97 up and high, Hanigan has been moving all over the place behind the plate with each pitch. ... Bailey blows cheeks, shakes off again, nods, fastball down, weak grounder right to third baseman Todd Frazier, no-hitter! May have got away with that pitch as he wanted it up in the zone.
"Every dog has his day twice, I guess," Bailey said after the game, but that was hardly the case. This was a dominant effort, a guy who didn't need great fielding plays to get this no-hitter, or line drives hit right at fielders. Over the final three innings, he threw 40 pitches -- 34 of them four-seam fastballs, six of them sliders (and three of those to Hunter Pence in the eighth). Bailey was rearing back and firing the old No. 1, pitch after pitch after pitch, just like another good ol' boy from Texas named Nolan Ryan used to do.
Bailey pointed out that he and Hanigan were on the same page (although maybe not quite on those final two pitches) and how he was happy Baker was here to see this one, because Dusty wasn't there in September after suffering an irregular heatbeat and minor stroke.
Bailey also faced only 28 batters in his previous no-hitter, joining select company as pitchers to throw two no-hitters while facing no more than one more than the minimum -- Cy Young, Sandy Koufax, Roy Halladay and Mark Buehrle the others.
A random Tuesday night in July. A pitcher at the top of his game, making history. This is why we watch.