Homer Bailey didn't even know he had recorded a career-high 15 strikeouts on Sunday until he was in the clubhouse having his arm iced and heard it on the television.
"You really don't pay attention or count the number of strikeouts," said Bailey, who racked up K's against the Toledo Mud Hens en route to the Louisville Bats' 10-3 victory. "I thought I did pretty well."
Bailey (2-2) gave up two runs on four hits and two walks over 6 1/3 innings, his longest outing of the season. He threw 79 of 118 pitches for strikes and, in doing so, surpassed the combined total of 11 strikeouts from his previous three games.
"I'm pretty hard to please as far as my own performance, but I'd say it was a B-plus," Bailey said. "I would have guys 0-2 or 1-2 and before I knew it, it was a full count. I wasn't able to shut them down as much as I wanted to. I threw more pitches than I really wanted to."
He might have had some added motivation Sunday, Bailey admitted. In his last start against the Mud Hens -- a 5-0 loss on April 14 -- he was ejected in the third inning after hitting Toledo's Wilkin Ramirez with a pitch.
"I'd be lying if I said that wasn't a part of it -- a little revenge," Bailey said.
But the 22-year-old right-hander is quick to see the bigger picture. After starting the season with a 12-4 loss in which he was tagged for nine runs -- eight earned -- on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings, he has seen steady improvement.
"Take away that first game. Everyone has a bad game, and I was just kind of like, 'I'll get my bad game out of the way,'" Bailey said. "Other than that, it's been good."
He got a good rhythm going with Louisville catcher Craig Tatum and was self-deprecating about Dusty Ryan's leadoff homer in the fourth.
"The one time I shook [Tatum] off all game, it was a homer," Bailey said. "But all four pitches were working for me. My fastball stayed down coming out of my hand. To me, it seems like every game, I've just gotten better."
His previous career high was 11 strikeouts, accomplished three times in the Minors, most recently on Aug. 13, 2006 for the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts.
Bailey gave up a first-inning double to Clete Thomas, but ended up striking out the side. In the fourth, Brent Clevlen grounded a leadoff single to left and Brent Dlugach got aboard on a force attempt. Bailey then fanned the next three to get out of trouble.
Norris Hopper drove in four runs and Kevin Barker homered twice to lead the offensive charge for the Bats (10-7). Barker's second blast, a solo shot in the fifth, was his 71st as a Bat, breaking Brandon Larson's franchise record.
"The guys definitely lit it up at the plate and that definitely helps a lot," Bailey said. "It felt good. It was a day game, so that's always a little bit of a shock to the system, like it is for everyone."