Homer Bailey throws a no-hitter against the Giants

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TOP OF THE NINTH: Bailey made a nice play on a high-bouncing comebacker from the Giants’ No. 8 hitter, Brandon Crawford, to get the first out in the ninth and struck out pinch-hitter Tony Abreu with a 97 mph fastball for the second out. Gregor Blanco, who drew the walk in the seventh inning to break up the perfect game, then slapped an easy grounder to Reds third baseman Todd Frazier to complete Bailey’s no-no.

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TOP OF THE EIGHTH: Bailey got Hunter Pence to pop up on the infield and Brandon Belt to fly out to right, then Andres Torres lined out to center. The Reds are still up 3-0 heading into the bottom of the eighth.

Bailey, who threw a 115-pitch no-hitter last year against the Pirates, is at 96 pitches with three outs to go.

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History may be in the works tonight in Cincinnati.

Reds right-hander Homer Bailey has thrown a no-hitter through seven innings against the defending World Series-champion Giants. Bailey brought a perfect game into the top of the seventh but issued a leadoff walk to Gregor Blanco, who then advanced to second base on a Marco Scutaro groundout. Buster Posey nearly broke up the no-no one batter later when he blooped a ball between second and first base but the Reds’ Joey Votto made a heads-up play and threw to third, catching Blanco off guard on a fielder’s choice. We’ll be tracking this the rest of the way. Cincy is leading San Francisco by a score of 3-0 in the bottom of the seventh.

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.