On the second night of July, facing the defending champion Giants in the midst of a rather discouraging stretch for his ballclub, Homer Bailey propped the Cincinnati Reds across his Texan shoulders like a calf, injured and separated from the flock.
With his head lowered and jaw stiffened in concentration, he carried his team after a head start out of the gate and enough help—between solid fielding and a timely return to form for Brandon Phillips—to make the journey seem attainable.
Bailey gained steam as he progressed, flashing some of his best heat and sharpest breaking balls from the sixth inning onward (see: Verlander, Justin). And that leaping stab—that will forever be the part where your son, daughter or grandchild will stop you in disbelief and accuse you of embellishing the story to the point of fiction.
There's more to this than Bailey becoming just the fourth active pitcher to throw multiple no-hitters (joining Verlander, Roy Halladay and Mark Buehrle, of all people), the 27th ever thrown and the youngest to multiple no-nos since Kent Mercker in 1994. This should very well have a ringing effect through the Reds ballclub for a few weeks forward.
Foremost, this sets the tone for the rest of the rotation. Latos becomes the de facto ace of the staff with Cueto sidelined again, but he's currently going through a spot of extended bad luck. Through his last six starts, he's sporting a BABIP of .327 despite an opposing batting average of .233. We've seen flashes of "Ace" Bailey before, and he's capable of catching lightning in a bottle every so often, as evidenced by tonight.
In a game like this, on the heels of a six-loss road trip, this performance is bigger than tonight's game. It energizes the rest of the rotation to take their individual games up a notch. Furthermore, it trickles down to the bullpen.
The road trip wasn't just a struggle for the Reds' offense; the bullpen had more downs than ups, themselves. Over those eight games, the Cincinnati bullpen pitched 23.1 innings (mostly coming from short starts by Cueto [injury] and Arroyo [that one out of seemingly every five starts where he just gets shelled]) and sported a 4.30 ERA.
A good night of rest combined with the moral pick me up that is their comrade going out and single-handedly shutting down the opposing offense is just what the relievers needed. The Reds are leaning pretty hard on the unproven guys, but they really have no choice but to do so at the moment.
Lastly, this is all the sweeter for Cincinnati in the form of belated payback to the champs. But much like the meeting in early October of 2012, this series isn't over yet either. The Reds and their momentum would be well served to close this one out on a winning note.