PITTSBURGH -- No hits, no runs -- no chance of a winning record.The Pirates indeed went gently into that dark night of non-winners, about as gently as one can go, being held hitless Friday night by Homer Bailey in a 1-0 loss to the Reds in front of 34,796 fans at PNC Park. Bailey authored the Major Leagues' seventh no-hitter of the season, the third in the National League and the second on the road. "It stinks for it to happen right now," said Andrew McCutchen, alluding to his reeling club. "But what can you do? Show up tomorrow." And raise a grudging toast to Mr. Bailey tonight. "He's got four pitches, and tonight he was dotting the glove," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "Most of the night, he was just following [catcher Ryan] Hanigan's glove. " The Pirates previously escaped being no-hit twice this season. On April 13, James McDonald's sixth-inning single was the only thing that stood between Matt Cain and what, as it turned out, would have been the first of his two perfect games. On May 18, Josh Harrison's ninth-inning single ruined Justin Verlander's no-hitter. After both of those near-misses, Hurdle had noted, with relief, never having been involved in a no-hitter. When that point was raised Friday night, he briefly choked up and had to pause before continuing. "You stay around long enough, you're probably going to taste one," Hurdle finally said. "No, doesn't taste good at all." More than merely no-hit, the Bucs were virtually no-chanced by Bailey, an avowed Pittsburgh nemesis who allowed only four batted balls to reach the outfield -- or two more than baserunners he allowed to reach base. Clint Barmes was safe on third baseman Scott Rolen's fielding error leading off the third. McCutchen drew a one-out walk in the seventh. And that was the Bucs' only resistance to their 81st loss of the season. "[Bailey] was locating better than he was in the past," said Garrett Jones.
High relative praise, considering Bailey had already beaten the Bucs twice this season and had thrown the only two previous complete games of his career in the same ballpark."He was elevating his fastball just enough to sneak it by above the strike zone," Jones said. "It looks like it's a good pitch to hit, and you think you're on it -- but just foul it off." Thus ended the second-longest hitting streak in Major League Baseball, only the Cubs having gone longer without being no-hit. The last time the Pirates were held hitless -- by Bob Gibson, on Aug. 14, 1971 -- they went on to win the World Series. They won't have that consolation this time. They will not even have a winning record, for a 20th consecutive season. They can still avoid a losing record, but to do so, they will have to win their remaining five games. So Hurdle's table is almost ready to be bussed. "We wanted to stay in contention for the division -- that got away," Hurdle had said before the Bucs opened their final homestand. "We wanted to stay in contention for the Wild Card -- that got away. Now the last thing on the plate is a .500 season." Most lost in Bailey's shadow was A.J. Burnett, who pitched one of his sharpest games in a sharp season in the slim defeat. "Before I recognized that a no-hitter was going on, the whole time I'm just thinking, 'Put up a zero,'" said Bailey. "A.J., has done pretty well against us. With the season he's had and the Pirates have in general, it's tough to go out there -- you have to quit thinking about the no-hitter. The most important thing is that we get a win." Hurdle seemed to take Burnett's defeat harder than the ace himself.
"[A no-hitter] is probably what took to pin a loss on A.J. tonight. He was very effective," said Hurdle.
Burnett saluted Bailey's effort.
"Yeah, man -- he threw the ball well," Burnett said. "And Hanigan did a good job. They used the fastball up in the zone, and it was tough to lay off. Even in that ninth inning, he kept coming after us."Bailey was going harder at the end than all night, in fact. "He found two, three more miles the last couple of innings," Hurdle said. "He sat on 90-91 [mph] most of the night, then went to 93 late." The game's only run scored on Todd Frazier's first-inning sacrifice fly, and even that was major damage control, coming as it did after the Reds had begun the game by loading the bases with none out. "Guys in here were joking around that I do better when I load the bases," said a grinning Burnett, who indeed has been an escape artist on numerous occasions this season. "When a guy is on like [Bailey], it's tough. but we were able to get through eight strong." In those eight, Burnett allowed seven hits and one walk while striking out five. On most nights, a terrific pitching line. On this night, it was a distant runner-up. A seventh-inning stirring didn't quite constitute a rally, but by running themselves out of it, the Bucs got Bailey one easy out closer to his no-hitter. McCutchen drew a four-pitch walk with one out and stole second on the first pitch to Jones. McCutchen then tried to swipe third on the second pitch to Jones -- thinking he had an advantage. As he was making his slow way off the field after being called out by third-base umpire Angel Hernandez, McCutchen kept his eyes glued on the video board replay. And he wasn't checking the accuracy of the umpire's call. "He thought he saw Bailey put the changeup grip on the ball," Hurdle said. "He was checking the pitch-speed on the board." Bailey had thrown the fastball. "Yeah, I was expecting another pitch to come," McCutchen said. "He threw a fastball, a good pitch [for the catcher] to throw on. A close play, but Angel called me out, so ... that's the way the cookie crumbles." The value of the gamble was evident when Jones wound up flying out deep to right field; with McCutchen on third, that would have been the game-tying sacrifice fly. "That's what I was trying to do, get to the next base," McCutchen said. "We weren't getting any hits, so I was trying to make something happen. That's the risk I took." "We've pushed Andrew to run," Hurdle said. "He understands the value of the out there. But that's not the reason we lost the game tonight."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.