SAN FRANCISCO -- You gain an appreciation for the stable of starting pitchers at Reds manager Dusty Baker's disposal when he is forced to shuffle his National League Division Series rotation -- and comes up with a pitcher for Game 3 who is less than two weeks removed from throwing a no-hitter.
That pitcher is right-hander Homer Bailey, who will take the mound at Great American Ball Park on Tuesday -- at 5:30 p.m. ET on TBS -- for his first start at home since his Sept. 28 no-hitter in Pittsburgh. The Reds swept both games in San Francisco and can advance to the NL Championship Series with a win behind Bailey.
Bailey will pitch in place of Mat Latos, who was needed in emergency relief Saturday night when Game 1 starter Johnny Cueto was knocked out by back spasms. Cueto and Bailey both traveled home to Cincinnati on Sunday, but Baker was clear -- Bailey will start Game 3, even if Cueto is feeling better.
Key stat: Game 3 will be Vogelsong's first postseason start of his career
Key stat: Pitched two scoreless innings in Game 3 of the 2010 Division Series vs. Phillies
At Great American Ball Park
2012: 1 GS, 0-0, 6.00 ERA Career: 2 GS, 1-0, 4.57 ERA
2012: 17 GS, 4-8, 5.16 ERA Career: 60 GS, 18-19, 5.13 ERA
Against this opponent
2012: 2 GS, 0-0, 4.15 ERA Career: 8 GS, 2-3, 5.08 ERA
2012: 1 GS, 0-0, 2.84 ERA Career: 5 GS, 1-0, 5.59 ERA
Loves to face: Joey Votto, 1-for-6 Hates to face: Brandon Phillips, 7-for-14
Loves to face: Hunter Pence, 2-for-11 Hates to face: Angel Pagan, 3-for-7
Why he'll win: Looks to have regained form after a rough August and September
Why he'll win: He'll be bringing the momentum from his no-hitter against the Pirates on Sept. 28
Pitcher beware: Season ERA jumped from 2.27 to 3.37 after Aug. 12
Pitcher beware: The Giants have scored 19 runs off Bailey in 29 career innings
Bottom line: Pitch like he did when he led the National League in ERA until Aug. 12
Bottom line: Continue mound mastery from his Sept. 28 no-hitter
"You're not comfortable at all until it's over," Baker said. "We've been there before -- it's hard to take the last breath out of anything, and that is [the Giants'] last breath, and they're trying to get a hold, win Game 3, then Game 4, and it's back to even. So we're trying to stop it from getting back to even [and giving them] any kind of momentum.
"It's important that we try to end it, if we can, especially with our situation with Johnny Cueto. That would buy us some more time. It's always important to try to get it over with as soon as you can."
Bailey was nonchalant about the gravity of his assignment.
"We're in a good spot," he said, "but every game at this stage of the season is big."
He came up big for the Reds all season.
The Reds' 2004 first-round Draft pick reached his tremendous potential in 2012, setting career-bests in starts (33), wins (13), innings (208), strikeouts (168), ERA (3.68), strikeouts to walks (3.23) and no-hitters -- one. He blanked the Pirates with 10 strikeouts and one walk on Sept. 28 in his next-to-last start of the regular season. It was the 16th no-hitter in club history but the first since Tom Browning threw a perfect game against the Dodgers on Sept. 16, 1988, at Riverfront Stadium.
Browning watched the final few innings of Bailey's gem from his home in Northern Kentucky. He has occasionally crossed paths with Bailey, sometimes in Spring Training and, early in Bailey's career, the fall instructional league.
"Early on, a lot of guys were trying to help him," Browning said. "What great advances he's made in the last year and a half.
"He was a No. 1 pick and everybody expected him to be a No. 1 guy. Now we have three that can be No. 1 guys with Cueto, Latos and Homer."
It was simply a matter of patience. Bailey endured downright tough seasons, like when he was 0-6 with a 7.93 ERA 2008, demotions to Triple-A Louisville in 2008 and 2009, and a succession of injuries, the most serious a series of shoulder problems that required long stays on the disabled list in 2011.
The biggest difference in 2012?
"It didn't hurt to throw," Bailey said. "That was the big one. That helps."
Baker said he considers Bailey "on the way" to the sort of stardom long expected of him.
"You know, people take different paths to the top and everybody's path isn't the same," Baker said. "This is the healthiest Homer has been this year. Homer has had something the last three or four years that has prevented him from going the whole year, but he just threw a no-hitter last month, and we feel he's on the way. We think he found what he needs in order to work out and in order to stay healthy. Once you find yourself -- like, everybody doesn't find themselves at the same time. He's on the way."
He might have arrived there that Friday night at PNC Park, when Pirates outfielder Alex Presley popped-up Bailey's 115th pitch behind second base, where Brandon Phillips made a routine catch that put Bailey in the record books.
It was the seventh no-hitter in Major League Baseball in 2012.
"Literally, I didn't move from the bench the whole game," Latos said, "because just to see him throw is unbelievable."
It was the result of hard work, he argued.
"What I've got from Homer, he works as hard as anybody I've seen in the league," Latos said. "Even on days that he pitches, I look at him, a lot of times I'm working out and he's in there getting loose and getting ready for the game and I watch the stuff he does, it's unbelievable. He might as well go out and run a marathon before he pitches. That's how he hard he works."
Bailey's only remaining start after the no-hitter was in St. Louis, so Tuesday will mark Reds fans' first opportunity to acknowledge his feat. Ryan Vogelsong will start for San Francisco.
"I will probably be somewhat oblivious to it," Bailey said of the reception he's likely to get. "Just like any starter on game day, unless there is a streaker running across, you don't pay attention. You're just focused on what you're doing."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.