CINCINNATI -- Homer Bailey knew all along that he would turn things around after struggling early this season.
So when he tossed eight dominant innings against the Phillies on Sunday afternoon and hit a two-run single in the fifth inning to lead the Reds to a 4-1 victory at Great American Ball Park, it was a culmination of what he knew to be coming from Day 1.
"I knew all along, even from the beginning, just give me a little bit of time and let me get my rhythm back," Bailey said. "Missing time early, and I had a bunch of games where I didn't do very good at all, but it's not something I haven't been through before."
Bailey allowed one run on six hits while walking three and striking out seven to earn his seventh win of the season, turning in his seventh quality start in his last eight outings in the process. The right-hander, who had a 6.15 ERA at the end of April, has posted a 2.57 ERA (six earned runs in 21 innings pitched) over his last four starts.
"I thought in that game, being able to throw a strike with the curveball on 2-1 late in the game, that, to me, is an important ability for Homer to get away from having to get himself back in the count with fastballs only," manager Bryan Price said. "He had a good slider, a good split, he was able to drop the curveball in, and then when he needed an out, he could go out there and slam the door with a fastball."
Bailey went to the mound in the eighth inning having thrown 108 pitches but got through the heart of Philadelphia's lineup. He induced a groundball to second by Chase Utley, struck out Ryan Howard looking on a 96-mph fastball, and following a Marlon Byrd single, got Domonic Brown to ground out to the shortstop, who retired Byrd at second.
Price didn't hesitate to let Bailey pitch on even after the Byrd single.
"Typically, when you kick the tires on a starting pitcher later in the game, you can get a pretty good feeling without them saying anything, with body language or hesitation or whatever," Price said. " … Homer was all in and he wanted to face that middle of the order and do what we needed him to do."
"The bullpen has picked me up so much," Bailey said. "The biggest thing I wanted to do was give those guys the day off. Our mentality for anybody who takes the rubber on this team is expected to want the ball and to be able to go out there and compete."
Bailey helped his own cause in the fifth inning by giving himself all the run support he would need. Todd Frazier led off the frame with a single to center off Phillies' starter David Buchanan. One out later, Zack Cozart doubled Frazier to third. Bailey then grounded a single up the middle to the left of second base past the drawn-in Jimmy Rollins to give Cincinnati a 2-1 lead.
"I think it's important for the starting pitcher to even be able to handle the bat," Bailey said. "You don't want to go up there and be an easy out, because in situations like that when, hey, if you can handle the bat a little bit, put the ball in play, whether it's a pop-up to the outfield or a seeing-eye single, good things can happen."
"Just missed my spot," Buchanan said of the pitch Bailey hit. "I got the ground ball. I was hoping it would get to Jimmy. He happened to find the hole up the middle. It's unfortunate."
The next batter, Billy Hamilton, then drove a 3-2 changeup from Buchanan over the wall in right field for his second homer of the season.
Hamilton was sitting on a changeup, and he got it.
"The first two at-bats I had against the guy, it was just one fastball each at bat," Hamilton said. "The rest was changeup, changeup, changeup. I was just like, 'If he beats me with the fastball, I'll foul it off, but I'm gonna see a changeup and I'm gonna do it this time.' And I guessed correct."
The Phillies scored their lone run of the game in the third, when Ben Revere led off with a single, moved to second on a single by Rollins, stole third, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Utley.
Aroldis Chapman shut the door on Philadelphia in the ninth, striking out the side to pick up his ninth save of the season.
For Bailey, it took until the seventh anniversary of his Major League debut to beat the Phillies for the first time, though he did go eight shutout innings of two-hit ball against them on April 16 of last season, in a game that ended up being suspended with no score. Bailey got a no-decision when Jay Bruce hit a walk-off single to win it the next day. This time, he got the victory and expects more starts like Sunday's to come.
"Go look at some of my earlier numbers and they will show you that as the season goes on, we'll work our way through this, and along with the help of the staff that we have here, we're able to figure some things out."
On Sunday, there was no way Bailey was coming out of the game until he had finished eight innings, and to Price, that's a special quality. It also represents how Bailey sees his season as a whole.
"He's one of those guys that tastes the finish line," Price said. "And he wanted to go back out. That's a good combination."
Manny Randhawa is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.