PITTSBURGH Homer Bailey watched a high popup settle into Brandon Phillips' glove and raised both arms in triumph. With only days remaining in a major league season marked by masterful pitching performances, it was his turn to celebrate.
Bailey tossed the seventh no-hitter in the big leagues this year, sending the Cincinnati Reds to a 1-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night.
"I don't think there is any reason why there have been so many," Bailey said. "There is a real fine line there in throwing a no-hitter. A bloop can fall in the outfield or an infielder can be in the wrong position and there goes your hit. You have to be extremely fortunate to throw a no-hitter and we had luck on our side."
The seven no-hitters match the modern record (since 1900) for one season, tying 1990 and 1991. There were eight no-hitters in 1884.
It was the 15th no-hitter in Reds history and first since Tom Browning's perfect game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sept. 16, 1988.
Bailey (13-10) struck out 10 and walked one for the NL Central champions. He threw 115 pitches and retired the side in order in the ninth inning, striking out pinch-hitter Brock Holt before getting pinch-hitter Michael McKenry and Alex Presley to pop out.
Phillips retreated from his spot at second base into shallow right-center and waited for Presley's routine popup. As soon as the ball was caught, Bailey was mobbed near the mound and doused with water by his happy Cincinnati teammates.
The 26-year-old right-hander improved to 5-0 with a 1.40 ERA in six career starts at PNC Park. All three of his complete games and both his shutouts have come against Pittsburgh.
It was the first time the Pirates had been held hitless since Bob Gibson pitched the only no-hitter of his Hall of Fame career in 1971 for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Cincinnati, which clinched the division title last Saturday, improved to 95-62. The Reds are tied with Washington for the best record in the National League.
Bailey has been touted as a future ace since Cincinnati selected him seventh overall in the 2004 amateur draft following his senior year of high school in LaGrange, Texas.
He has a 38-33 career record and has set a season high for wins. Reds bench coach Chris Speier, serving as acting manager while Dusty Baker recovers from a mini-stroke, thinks the no-hitter could serve as a benchmark moment for Bailey.
"He's always been a good thrower, but he's really learned how to pitch this season," Speier said. "You saw the evolution tonight."
Bailey entered with 195 innings pitched this season and was eager to reach 200 for the first time in his six-year career.
"I looked up at the scoreboard (after the fifth inning) to see if I had hit 200 and saw a couple of zeros," Bailey said. "That's when I knew I had a chance at a no-hitter. It's not something you think about doing."
The other no-hitters this season were thrown by Philip Humber of the Chicago White Sox, Jered Weaver of the Los Angeles Angels, Johan Santana of the New York Mets, Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants and Felix Hernandez of Seattle. Six other Mariners pitchers combined for another no-hitter by Seattle, too.
Humber, Cain and Hernandez each had a perfect game.