CINCINNATI — The defending World Series champions have hit another low point in a rough season. Not only did they get shut out by Cincinnati’s Homer Bailey, they didn’t even come close to getting a hit.
Bailey threw his second no-hitter in 10 months and the first in the majors this season, pitching the Reds to a 3-0 victory over the slumping San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night.
“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.”
That’s happened a lot lately.
The Giants fell a season-low five games under .500 (39-44) for the first time this season. The offense has been the big problem — two runs or less in nine of the last 12 games, five runs or fewer in 17 straight.
“We’re in a tough stretch with the offense,” Bochy said. “We’ve been sputtering. Hopefully this is rock bottom. Hopefully this is as low as it gets. But, I don’t know what team would’ve hit (Bailey) tonight.”
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.
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 threw the last of the majors’ seven no-hitters last season, a 1-0 win in Pittsburgh on Sept. 28. Now, he has the first one of this season.
The last pitcher to throw one no-hitter and then another before anyone else in the majors accomplished the feat was Hall of Famer Nolan 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.
Now, the Ryan Express has a worthy passenger. Bailey, a fellow Texan, grew up admiring Ryan and wears his No. 34 in tribute.
“Obviously being from Texas and what a legend he is,” Bailey said. “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 one of Ryan’s record seven no-hitters.
Bailey (5-6) allowed only one Giants batter to reach base and struck out nine in a tidy 102 pitches.
He walked Gregor Blanco leading off the seventh. First baseman Joey Votto alertly threw out Blanco as he tried to advance from second to third on a soft one-hopper that otherwise could have become an infield single for Buster Posey.
“Joey had a great heads-up play. I was almost a little late getting to the bag,” Bailey said.
With 27,509 fans on their feet chanting “Homer! Homer!” Bailey finished it off in the ninth. He jumped to glove Brandon Crawford’s high comebacker, struck out Tony Abreu and retired Blanco on a grounder to third baseman Todd Frazier.
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.
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.
This time, he ended up with his sixth straight loss on the road, a personal low.
“I just struggled overall,” Lincecum said. “I was getting behind batters. I need to attack the (strike) zone better.”
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: 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.