By HAL McCOY
As Homer Bailey packed his bags and boxes for shipment home to Texas Sunday in Great American Ball Park and packed his gear for the Cincinnati Reds last road trip of the season, he said, “My last start of the year is in Milwaukee and I plan to make it a good one and then get ready for next year.”
The man was true to his words. His plan worked out swimmingly Wednesday night in Miller Park. Bailey put together seven scoreless innings and gave up only four hits (three in one inning) and walked three while striking out four during his 117-pitch night.
And that alone, 117 pitches, plus fast balls routinely at 94 miles an hour, a level where he was before his three surgeries, shows that Bailey is back.
And with help from his offense and defense, Bailey was the winner as the Reds blasted the Milwaukee Brewers, 6-0.
This game heavily emphasized what it could be like in Cincinnati with solid pitching. And if Bailey carries this over to 2018 things could change rapidly.
Offense? The team has it. Three guys with 30 or more home runs. Five guys with 25 or more and Zack Cozart at 24 is only one behind from making it six.
Defense? The team has it, all over the field and especially in the outfield led by Adam Duvall and Billy Hamilton. The outfield has 41 assists. Duvall has a league-leading 15 and Hamilton threw a runner out a home Wednesday to give him 13.
The obvious Achilles heel all year, and it was a gaping wound, was the starting pitching.
Now if Bailey can do what he did Wednesday and be the veteran leader of the young staff in 2018. . .if, if, if.
Bailey gave up a single to Eric Thames on the first pitch he threw, then not much else. The other three hits were all singles in Milwaukee’s fourth inning.
And Hamilton saved him. With runners on second and first with two outs, both on via singles, Orlando Arcia singled to center and Travis Shaw tried to score from second and Hamilton gunned him down.
Bailey then pitched hitless innings from the fifth through the seventh, completing seven innings in a game for the first time in little more than three years, before three arm surgeries staggered him.
Offensively, the Reds scored six runs in 2 1/3 innings against Milwaukee rookie Brandon Woodruff.
It began with a first inning home run by Joey Votto, his 36th. It continued in the third when Tucker Barnhart opened the inning with his seventh home run to celebrate his new four-year contract.
Before the inning was over the Reds scored five runs. After Barnhart’s home run, Bailey doubled and Cozart walked on four pitches. Votto singled to make it 3-0. Scoter Gennett singled to make it 4-0. Eugenio Suarez singled to load the bases. Scott Schebler singled to make it 5-0 and Adam Duvall hit a sacrifice fly to mke it 6-0.
Let’s see now. The Reds have solidified last place in the National League Central. But they have three players close to 100 RBI — Joey Votto 99, Adam Duvall 98, Scooter Gennett 95.
Once again it points to a offensive-loaded, defensive-minded last-place team, last because of pitching deficiencies.
It was an awful night for the Brewers. The Chicago Cubs clinched the NL Central title Wednesday night. And their loss to the Reds dropped them 2 ½ games behind Colorado for the second wild card spot with four to play.
They lost three straight to the Reds in Cincinnati in early September and they lost Wednesday night, so the Reds played a major role in their demise.