CINCINNATI — Homer Bailey played catch in the sun-splashed outfield at Great American Ball Park, his usual routine the day before a start. Nothing different at all, as far as the Texan let on.
"You guys," he said afterward, "it's just another game."
Uh-uh. Not buying it. Everyone knows the Cincinnati Reds pitcher has a chance to exorcise a lot of bad post-season history — or add to it — with his next start.
Less than two weeks after he threw the 15th no-hitter in the history of baseball's first professional franchise, the 26-year-old Bailey has a chance to add another career moment. He can complete a division-series sweep of the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night.
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Up 2-0 in the series, the Reds need one more victory to advance, with as many as three chances left at home. It'll be a breakthrough if they get it.
Cincinnati hasn't won a home playoff game in 17 years, a span of futility etched into the franchise's storied history. Everyone remembers the Big Red Machine winning back-to-back World Series in 1975-76. The 1990 Nasty Boys team swept Oakland to win another.
Since then? Little more than heartbreak. Got swept by Atlanta in the 1995 NL championship series under manager Davey Johnson. Lost a one-game playoff for the NL wild card to the Mets in 1999 at Riverfront Stadium. Got swept by the Phillies in the first round two years ago.
Maybe it's finally their time.
"I had this one kid give me a sweatshirt that said, 'The Year of the 12,'" said Manager Dusty Baker, who wears the uniform number. "He gave it to me in spring training. I believe in that. I'm only going to see one '12 while I'm living. It's a special year. I just feel that it's our year."
Their first shot at it will make major-league history.
The Giants and Reds both had pitchers throw no-hitters this year — Matt Cain had a perfect game for San Francisco. When Bailey starts on Tuesday, it'll mark the first time two players that threw no-hitters in the regular season pitch on opposing teams in the same playoff series, according to STATS LLC.
The Reds put themselves in position for a sweep by overcoming the loss of ace Johnny Cueto to a bad back in the first inning of the opener, then pulling out a 5-2 win. They won 9-0 on Sunday night behind Bronson Arroyo's seven crisp innings, then tried to get a few hours of sleep on the overnight flight back to Ohio.
The plane landed at 6:48 a.m., less than an hour before the sun came up.
"I slept on the plane, got here, got my stuff, got breakfast (at a restaurant) and went back to bed, slept a couple of hours and made myself get up," outfielder Drew Stubbs said. "Not an ideal amount of rest, but hopefully I get to catch up on it tonight."
The Giants stayed overnight on the West Coast and flew in during the afternoon, trying to get a little needed sleep in their own beds. Probably wasn't very restful — only four teams have overcome a 2-0 deficit in the division series.
"The cliche is to say it's just another game, but I feel 'just another game' doesn't count when you're talking about the post-season," said right-hander Ryan Vogelsong, who starts on Tuesday.
If Vogelsong and the Giants can extend the series, Manager Bruce Bochy said Monday that left-hander Barry Zito would start Game 4. The Reds were still unsure whether Cueto would be available.