Homer Bailey throws a no-hitter against the Pirates

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UPDATE: He did it! Homer Bailey has done it. He threw a no-hitter tonight against the Pirates as part of a 1-0 win.

Bailey struck out pinch-hitter Brock Holt swinging to begin the ninth before getting pinch-hitter Michael McKenry to pop out to left field for the second out. He then Alex Presley to pop out to Brandon Phillips in shallow center field to finish off the no-hitter.

Bailey is the first Reds pitcher with a no-hitter since Tom Browning threw a perfect game against the Dodgers on September 16, 1988. This is the seventh no-hitter in MLB this season, joining Felix Hernandez (perfect game), Matt Cain (perfect game), the six-pitcher no-hitter by the Mariners, Johan Santana, Jered Weaver and Philip Humber (perfect game). There haven’t been seven no-hitters in a season since 1991.

Bailey tied a career-high with 10 strikeouts and needed 115 pitches to get it done. This no-hitter won’t be without some controversy, as the play with Scott Rolen in the third inning could have easily been ruled a hit instead of an error. Still, the Pirates had the rest of the game to get a hit and couldn’t do it. Can’t lose sleep over that. Congrats to Bailey on his first career no-no.

By the way, this was the Pirates’ 81st loss of the season, ensuring their 20th straight season without a winning record. I’m sorry, Pirates fans.

9:18 PM: Bailey has now held the Pirates hitless through eight.

Travis Snider pinch-hit for Jose Tabata to lead off the eighth inning and flew out to left field. Pedro Alvarez then hit a liner right at Scott Rolen for the second out. Jeff Clement then pinch-hit for Clint Barmes and struck out swinging.

Bailey has nine strikeouts on the night and has thrown only 99 pitches, so he plenty of bullets left. The Pirates have Rod Barajas, the pitcher spot and Alex Presley due up in the bottom of the ninth.

By the way, the Pirates have not been no-hit since Bob Gibson did it on August 14, 1971.

9:02 PM: The Pirates’ second-half collapse has been pretty depressing to watch, but they could be reaching new depths tonight against the Reds.

Homer Bailey has held the Pirates hitless through seven innings. The Reds currently lead it 1-0 thanks to a first-inning sacrifice fly by Todd Frazier.

Bailey has only allowed two baserunners all night, one on a fielding error by Scott Rolen in the third inning and the other via a walk to Andrew McCutchen in the seventh. McCutchen stole second base, but was then thrown out trying to steal third. Bailey has eight strikeouts and has thrown 57 out of 89 pitches for strikes.

The Pirates will send Jose Tabata, Pedro Alvarez and Clint Barmes to the plate in the bottom of the eighth. Stay tuned to see if Bailey can make a little history.

No one pounds the zone anymore

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“Work fast and throw strikes” has long been the top conventional wisdom for those preaching pitching success. The “work fast” part of that has increasingly gone by the wayside, however, as pitchers take more and more time to throw pitches in an effort to max out their effort and, thus, their velocity with each pitch.

Now, as Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer reports, the “throw strikes” part of it is going out of style too:

Pitchers are throwing fewer pitches inside the strike zone than ever previously recorded . . . A decade ago, more than half of all pitches ended up in the strike zone. Today, that rate has fallen below 47 percent.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Most notable among them, Lindbergh says, being pitchers’ increasing reliance on curves, sliders and splitters as primary pitches, with said pitches not being in the zone by design. Lindbergh doesn’t mention it, but I’d guess that an increased emphasis on catchers’ framing plays a role too, with teams increasingly selecting for catchers who can turn balls that are actually out of the zone into strikes. If you have one of those beasts, why bother throwing something directly over the plate?

There is an unintended downside to all of this: a lack of action. As Lindbergh notes — and as you’ve not doubt noticed while watching games — there are more walks and strikeouts, there is more weak contact from guys chasing bad pitches and, as a result, games and at bats are going longer.

As always, such insights are interesting. As is so often the case these days, however, such insights serve as an unpleasant reminder of why the on-field product is so unsatisfying in so many ways in recent years.