By HAL McCOY
The first pitch Homer Bailey threw in a major league game in a year-and-a-half Sunday afternoon in Petco Park was ripped into left field for a single by San Diego’s Travis Jankowski and all over Redsland there was a big, “Oh, oh.”
Before the game ended, though, it was the San Diego Padres uttering, “Oh, oh,” because Bailey was on the money the rest of his time on the mound, a 3-2 Cincinnati Reds victory.
Bailey pitched 5 2/3 innings, giving up two runs, four hits, walked three and struck out six.
He gave up a run in the first after Jankowski’s single because he gave up two more singles and fell behind, 1-0.
OVER THE LAST FIVE innings, though, he gave up only one more hit, retired 14 straight at one point and struck out the side in the fourth before he appeared to run out of petrol in the sixth.
He hadn’t walked a batter until the sixth but ended up walking three that inning and had to leave with 89 pitches.
The Reds scored two in the bottom of the second on Eugenio’s single and Jose Peraza’s long home run (457 feet) to left field, his first extra base hit for the Reds, giving Bailey a 2-1 lead.
The Reds filled the bases with no outs in the sixth on singled by Joey Votto, extending his hitting streak to 15 games, Adam Duvall on a reversed call at first base and Brandon Phillips. But the next two Reds couldn’t get the ball out of the infield before Tucker Barnhart lined a run-scoring single off pitcher Buddy Baumann’s leg. That made it 3-1.
BAILEY’S SIXTH INNING didn’t border on the bizarre. It was bizarre.
He had retired 14 straight when Alexi Amarista singled to right field and Brett Myers was the recipient of Bailey’s first walk. Amarista and Myers pulled off a double steal, putting runners on third and second with one out.
Bailey then issued his second walk, a pitch in the dirt to Ryan Shimpf that eluded catcher Tucker Barnhart. Amarista broke for home, but Barnhart scrambled quickly to retrieve that ball and threw to Bailey, covering home, for the out.
Bizarre? It got more bizarre.
BAILEY THEN WALKED his third straight batter on a full count to just called up rookie Jabari Blash. The frustrated Bailey turned his back on home plate after the walk and after catcher Barnhart tossed the ball back to him. Myers, seeing Bailey not paying attention, stole home standing up, cutting the Reds lead to 3-2.
NOW IT WAS UP TO the bullpen and as has been the case since the All-Star break it came through.
Blake Wood replaced Bailey in the sixth with two on and two outs and he struck out Christian Bethancourt to end the inning.
Wood then pitched a one-two-three seventh and turned the eighth over to Michael Lorenzen, which became adventuresome.
Lorenzen loaded the bases with one out on a single, walk and hit batsmen Then he struck out Blash on a 3-and-2 pitch and Bethancourt lined hard to left field, leaving the bases loaded and preserving the 3-2 lead.
Tony Cingrani put the exclamation point on festivities with a 1-2-3 ninth, preserving Bailey’s first major league win since August of 2014 when he beat the Cleveland Indians for his ninth win. But after that he underwent two arm surgeries before finally making it back Sunday afternoon.
AND IT ENABLED THE Reds to win their fifth straight series since the All-Star break, all by two games to one against Milwaukee, Atlanta, Arizona, San Francisco and San Diego.
Jay Bruce was in the original lineup, but at the last moment manager Bryan Price took him out and replaced him, fortunately, with Peraza, who did his best Jay Bruce imitation with the two-run game-winning home run.
Taking Bruce out led to speculation that a trade had been made, but Price insisted the move was to give Bruce a mental day off because of all the rumors he has had to endure.
Price didn’t even use him in the ninth inning as a pinch-hitter, instead sending up Ivan DeJesus Jr.
But after the game, Bruce was still a member of the Reds and the team still has until Monday afternoon’s trade deadline to move him elsewhere — or keep him.