Homer Bailey dominates Giants, making case to keep A's rotation spot


SAN FRANCISCO -- There must be something about the Bay Area for Homer Bailey.

Since joining the A's last month, the veteran right-hander has been terrific in Northern California and, well, awful everywhere else. That trend continued Wednesday afternoon as Bailey spun seven innings of shutout ball against the Giants, allowing just two hits and a walk with seven strikeouts, leading Oakland to a 9-5 win at Oracle Park.

"I think it was his best stuff of the year," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "He had a great split, located his fastball really well, but really could throw his split in any count. He got some swings and misses with it, just enough side-to-side with his breaking ball. That's the best we've seen him."

In his four starts in either Oakland or San Francisco, Bailey is now 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA. In two starts outside of the Bay Area, the 33-year-old is 0-2 with a 21.60 ERA. Bailey still hasn't been able to determine the reason for his Jekyll and Hyde performances.

"Just pitching," he said. "Make good pitches, have a good game plan going into it and then try to execute it."

Unfortunately, Bailey hasn't been able to do that consistently this year. Even after Wednesday's gem, his ERA for the season is 5.22. Melvin believes the key lies in Bailey's split-finger fastball, arguably his best pitch.

"From what we've seen, it looks like when his split is on, he's a tough customer to deal with because he can throw it for a strike, he can throw it for chase, and it keeps guys off his fastball," Melvin explained.

Bailey agreed with that assessment.

"I think it's any pitcher in general," he said. "When you're able to use more than one pitch, and you can use it to get ahead or to get outs with, more times than not, you're going to have success."

Bailey's strong outing Wednesday certainly came at the perfect time -- his last start against the Cubs saw him allow seven earned runs in 4 2/3 innings. And with Sean Manaea getting close to returning from the injured list, Bailey's spot in the rotation is far from guaranteed, especially considering how well Oakland's other starters have pitched recently.

Mike Fiers has been the ace all season and is locked into that role. The newly-acquired Tanner Roark has pitched well in his first two A's outings and is also secure in the rotation.

Brett Anderson has been reliable all year and has recorded quality starts in seven of his last eight outings. Chris Bassitt has pitched brilliantly over the last month, going 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA in his last six starts.

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That would seem to make Bailey the odd man out, at least heading into Wednesday's masterful performance. The key for him now is consistency. The A's need to know they can rely on him each and every start -- not necessarily to be great, but just to keep them in the game.

Bailey will face a stiff test his next time out, as he is lined up to face the American League-leading New York Yankees next week. We'll just have to wait and see which Bailey shows up.

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