Dirty Dining

Duck, duck, goose with Homer Bailey
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - His birth certificate reads David Bailey but his friends and family have always called him "Homer" (after the great Homer Simpson, I presume).

His teammates have a different name for him. They call him "Batman," because if Bailey and Christian Bale were ever in a room together, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

I myself, have another nickname for the Cincinnati Reds righthander. I call him "Goose."

And no, that's not a nod to "Top Gun," though Bailey has spent a good portion of this season trying to work his way out of the "Danger Zone" (gratuitous Kenny Loggins reference: check). It's because typically, Bailey falls into the category of a "duck, duck, goose" type of pitcher. Ervin Santana of the Los Angeles Angels and Francisco Liriano of the Chicago White Sox are also members of the "duck, duck, goose club." Edwin Jackson of the Washington Nationals also flirts with this distinction from time to time.

I group these pitchers together not because they enjoy playing tag on their off days, but because you never quite know what to expect from them.

Often with Bailey, the pattern goes: great, great, complete meltdown, great, great, "Where is the tallest building I can jump off of?," great, great, "This is torture" and then great again.

Luckily for fantasy owners, Friday's outing versus Pittsburgh was of the great variety. Perhaps great doesn't even do it justice. Aside from a fielding error by Scott Rolen in the third and a one-out walk to Andrew McCutchen in the seventh, Bailey's 32nd start of the year was flawless.

At 9:35 p.m., Alex Presley skied a soft pop-up to second baseman Brandon Phillips to complete the first no-hitter of Bailey's career and the first by a Cincinnati pitcher in over 20 years.

Before Bailey's effort on Friday, no Reds righthander had thrown a no-hitter since Tom Seaver did it in a win over the St. Louis Cardinals back on June 16, 1978. That happened nearly eight years before Bailey was even born.

This performance lacked the typical roller-coaster of emotions we usually experience when Bailey pitches (except for the last inning of course). Mr. See-saw was on his game Friday night, wheeling and dealing like a black-jack dealer at Caesar's Palace. His command was stunning (74 of his 115 tosses went for strikes) and only once was the central Texas native in danger of allowing a hit.

That small hint of danger came in the eighth inning when Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez whacked a hard line drive toward the left side of the infield. The chorus of gasps from the 35,000 fans in attendance was premature: Rolen was able to leap for it and make the easy catch. Crisis averted.

Other than the Alvarez scare, Bailey was as smooth as one of Ron Burgundy's suits. Bailey struck out 10 hitters in his nine innings of work, a career-high for the six-year veteran. Seven of the 10 punchouts came on fastballs with the other three coming on breaking pitches (usually his slider).

Bailey's heater never reached above 93, but as Philip Humber taught us earlier this year, you don't need to be overpowering to pitch a no-hitter. Nine of the 27 outs Bailey recorded were on ground outs with another seven coming via pop- ups and flyouts. Bailey's overall performance registered a 96 rating on ESPN's game score calculator, the third-highest total in the majors this season, trailing only the two perfect games thrown by Matt Cain (101) and Felix Hernandez (99).

If we look at Bailey's body of work outside of his no-hitter on Friday, it's a pretty mixed bag. His batting average against is a solid if unspectacular .256. Roughly two-thirds of his appearances this season have qualified as "quality starts" (duck, duck and goose).

Even after his 10-strikeout showing on Friday, Bailey still ranks only 28th in the National League in strikeouts per nine innings (7.15). His 1.25 WHIP isn't anything to write home about either.

Streaky should be Bailey's middle name. June was struggle city for Bailey (1-3, 6.00 ERA), but July was a bowl of cherries (4-0, 2.61). Bailey's August (1-3, 6.04) was just as frustrating as June, though somehow he's been able to turn it right back on again in September (3-1, 2.01).

Bailey certainly hasn't put it all together yet but there are signs that someday, he just might. Bailey had made plenty of strides this season even before Friday night's no-hitter (which pretty much buried Pittsburgh's hopes of finishing the year above .500). His 3.75 ERA is 0.68 lower than the one he posted in 2011 and he has also established new career-highs in strikeouts (162) and wins (13) this year.

His wins above replacement is improving, too. Last season, Bailey carried a WAR of just 0.2. This year, his WAR sits at a much more respectable 2.1.

Friday night, after his teammates mobbed him and soaked his uniform in Gatorade, Bailey couldn't have been more humble about what had just unfolded.

"Just like it's been all year, my defense has just covered my back unbelievably," said the drenched righthander. "They're really the best in the game at making a pitcher look good."

Give yourself a little credit, Batman. Friday night was all you.

Bailey earned the respect of the baseball community on Friday and now maybe he'll finally start to earn the respect he deserves in fantasy as well.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

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