Those words — especially the f-bomb — carry a little less weight when the man behind them is covered in whipped cream minutes after throwing his second career no-hitter. And if it wasn’t for that walk, we’d be talking about not only a perfect game, but one of the best starts of all time.
Bailey struck out nine. He induced 17 swinging strikes. Of the 18 balls put in play, not a single one required any sort of strenuous effort from his fielders. The toughest play for a defender came with one out in the seventh inning, and only because Bailey forgot to cover first base on a ball hit to Joey Votto. Luckily for Bailey, Votto caught Gregor Blanco cheating off second base, an act that turned a likely hit for Buster Posey into a harmless fielder’s choice. But other than that, the Reds defense looked like they were fielding warmups out there.
It was, as Giants manager Bruce Bochy put it, “a pretty easy no-hitter.”
And It was almost like watching a replay of Bailey’s first no-hitter and the last no-hitter seen in MLB, accomplished September 28, 2012 against Pittsburgh. Both games saw Bailey one walk away from a perfect game — although the first also featured a Reds error. Bailey struck out 10 in September against his nine on Tuesday.
He dominated with the high fastball — three feet above the plate or higher — in both starts. Against Pittsburgh, he induced six swinging strikes and two outs on such pitches. Against San Francisco on Tuesday, he induced five swinging strikes and two outs on the high heater.
And the fastball just kept picking up steam in both starts. In 2012, Bailey went from 91.0 MPH on his first pitch to 94.4 on pitch 98 and 93.8 on pitch 111. He peaked at pitch 55, and again at pitch 65, and again at pitch 78, and again at pitch 94, and then finally threw his fastest pitch four pitches later. On Tuesday, Bailey went from 92.4 on the first pitch of the game to an eye-popping 98.2 on pitch 108. He set peaks on pitches 46, 64, 87 and 89 before shooting the 98.2 on his second-to-last fastball.
Don’t forget to give some credit to Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan, the man behind the plate for both of Bailey’s no-hitters. Hanigan is widely renowned — by scouts and sabermetricians alike — as one of the league’s best receiving catchers. Hanigan picked up what looks like at least three and possibly up to five strikes outside the typically called zone according to the maps at Brooks Baseball. It’s a small thing in the larger scope of a no-hitter, but it makes the pitchers’ job much easier. There’s a reason the catcher always gets the first hug after the no-hitter.
Bailey was a bit of a late bloomer — he was supposed to become the ace of the Reds’ rotation in 2007 or 2008, not 2012 or 2013. Right now, he’s going as well as nearly anybody in the league. He owns a 3.47 ERA and a sparkling 3.08 FIP over the last calendar year despite pitching in the constrictingly small Great American Ball Park. He’s striking out over four times as many batters over that span, covering 34 starts.
Bailey still has his occasional hiccups — he has allowed six or more earned runs three times this season. Right now, though, those few blemishes are the only thing keeping him out of the first tier of aces, like the Matt Harveys, Adam Wainwrights and Clayton Kershaws of the National League. As we saw Tuesday, back in September, and many times in between, when Bailey is at his best, he is as untouchable as any pitcher in the game.