Bailey triumphant as Reds handle Tribe
Bruce hits 18th homer to back righty's first win of season
CLEVELAND -- All Dusty Baker wanted from Homer Bailey was a win.
While Bailey wasn't exactly overpowering in the Reds' 7-3 win over the Indians on Saturday at Progressive Field, he gave his manager exactly what he wanted.
The 22-year-old pitched five innings, giving up three runs and three hits, while striking out two and walking a career-high seven hitters. Not exactly sterling, but it was enough to earn his first victory of the season.
"Nobody ever said a win had to be pretty," Bailey said. "Early on, things weren't going my way. I tried throwing finer. That was my mistake."
Bailey was making his much-heralded return to the Majors after dominating at Triple-A Louisville. A new split-finger fastball had been credited with Bailey's success since being sent to the Minor Leagues at the end of May. In his past 38 1/3 Minor League innings, Bailey was 4-0 with a 0.47 ERA, 38 strikeouts and just seven walks.
Bailey said he threw the split-finger six or seven times on Saturday, but it wasn't very effective.
Baker said Friday that Arthur Rhodes told him that some of the baseballs were slick. Bailey admitted that the balls were slick again Saturday.
"It must have been something in the air," Bailey said. "I had to constantly lick my hand. That definitely affected how I threw my splitter. It had nothing to do with levels. I just didn't have it tonight."
But split-finger or no split-finger, Bailey once again struggled to throw strikes. Of Bailey's 106 pitches, just more than half (54) were strikes. In his two starts this season, Bailey has walked 13 batters over 9 1/3 innings.
So there is plenty of room for improvement.
"I'd say he trusts his stuff, it's just a matter of him finding the proper release point," Baker said. "He was around the strike zone, but not in it."
But while Bailey struggled to throw strikes, the Reds offense gave him plenty of breathing room against Indians starter Tomo Ohka, who walked four batters of his own.
Jay Bruce led off the second inning with his 18th home run of the season to right-center field to get Cincinnati on the board. Catcher Ryan Hanigan and shortstop Paul Janish followed with back-to-back singles. Chris Dickerson and Jerry Hairston Jr. delivered back-back-doubles to plate two more, and Joey Votto capped the second-inning outburst with a groundout to first to score Dickerson. That gave the Reds, and Bailey, an early 4-0 lead.
After the Indians scored a run in the bottom of the second, the Reds came out swinging again in the third. Left fielder Laynce Nix began the frame with a double and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Bruce to give the Reds a 5-1 advantage.
"Those early runs helped big time," Baker said. "That gets them out of their game plan."
But Bailey would make it interesting again in the fourth inning. And it was a result of what else -- walks.
With two outs and Jhonny Peralta on first, Bailey walked left fielder Ben Francisco and second baseman Jamey Carroll to load the bases. Grady Sizemore made him pay with a two-run single to cut the Reds lead to 6-3.
But it would get no closer. Designated hitter Jonny Gomes capped the scoring when he singled in Nix, who had notched his second double on the day in the seventh inning.
Relievers Nick Massett, Arthur Rhodes, David Weathers and Francisco Cordero would take it from there. The foursome combined for four scoreless innings to move the Reds within a win of .500. A victory in Sunday's finale would also even the current six-game road trip (2-3). It was the Reds' second victory in their past seven games.
"The bats came alive big time," Bailey said. "We all needed that, especially with the way we lost yesterday. The guys picked me up."
Matt O'Donnell is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.