Homer, Reds fall just short of no-hit odyssey
Top Cincy prospect fans nine in six near-perfect frames
By Christopher Heine / Special to MLB.com
Homer Bailey's three-pitch repertoire was in full force Thursday afternoon as the Reds' top pitching prospect threw six no-hit innings to lead Sarasota past Lakeland, 2-0.
Brock Till (1-0) was nearly perfect in the seventh and eighth and earned the win for the visiting Reds. However, Carlos Alvarado gave up a bunt single to Gilberto Mejia with one out in the ninth to end the team's no-hit bid. The Mejia roller toward second base turned out to be the only Tigers hit.
"It's disappointing that we lost the no-hitter on a bunt in the ninth," said Reds catcher Tom Purdom. "But, I can't blame [Mejia] at all. It's a two-run game. They were still in it and trying to win any way they can."
Darren Anderson's two-run blast in the eighth proved to be the game-winner for Sarasota (11-10) but came too late to garner a win for Bailey, who was caught in a pitcher's duel with Lakeland starter Dallas Trahern.
Bailey, a 6-foot-4 flamethrower, was simply dominating while striking out nine, issuing two walks and lowering his ERA to 3.08. He rebounded dramatically from a poor outing against Dunedin on April 22, when he surrendered four runs on five hits in five innings.
"Today, I was just attacking with my fastball and getting ahead in the count, which made it easier to set the batters up for my changeup and curveball," Bailey said. "My change-up was better than it has been. I was locating all three of my pitches really well."
Sarasota manager Donnie Scott pulled his starter after the sixth because Bailey was too close to his mandatory 90-pitch count to justify beginning another frame. Scott said that Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky is keeping the organization's top prospect on a short leash.
Bailey's fastball typically clocks out at 92-94 mph but occasionally reaches the 96-97 range. Scott said his young hurler's reliance on it Thursday was planned.
"Homer had been pitching backwards a lot, throwing his breaking stuff first, and today we told him to go out there and trust his fastball," Scott said. "We told him to go out there and get beat with his best stuff if he's got to get beat. He was locating his fastball well, and that allowed him to get ahead in the count. Staying ahead in the count will be key for him. Once he gets that under his belt, he'll be able to take it to the next level."
Bailey, who hasn't thrown a no-hitter since tossing multiple ones in high school, didn't try to convince his manager to let him stay in the game.
"It's a little frustrating to have to come out of the game with a no-hitter going, but it's for the best in terms of my development," he said. "It would have been the first in my professional career, so it would have been kind of special."
After Mejia's bunt single, Alvarado notched his second save by striking out Clete Thomas and getting Jeffrey Frazier to hit a routine fly ball into center to end the game.
Jeff Hahn (4-1) gave up the homer to Anderson and took his first loss while throwing the eighth. Eddie Bonine blanked the Reds in the ninth to keep the game close.
Trahern was almost as good as Bailey, allowing four hits without any runs and striking out four for the Tigers (9-12). He lowered his ERA to 5.40.
With the Reds leading the series 2-0, the two teams conclude their three-game set at 7 p.m. ET on Friday. -- Christopher Heine/MLB.com
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
Homer Bailey was unhittable against Lakeland on Thursday, striking out nine in six no-hit innings. (Sarasota Reds)