Arroyo capitalizes on head start to shut down Braves
Phillips, Frazier combine to drive home three runs in first inning
ATLANTA -- If the Cincinnati Reds looked up the word "stopper" in the dictionary, they probably would see a picture of Bronson Arroyo.
Cincinnati raised its record to 8-0 in 2013 starts by Arroyo (8-7) following a loss as the right-hander limited the Braves to one run and three hits over seven innings in leading the Reds to a 4-2 win over Atlanta on Friday night at Turner Field.
"I try not to pitch any different, but to be honest, sometimes there's an urgency to the mood in the clubhouse," said Arroyo, who lowered his ERA to 1.57 in starts following Reds losses this season. "This game is very difficult and nobody can go out there and just say, 'I'm going to win the ballgame today.' So it's partly probably luck and a bit of trying to just really want to not let your ballteam slide downhill again."
Friday's win evened the weekend series at a game apiece and gave the Reds a 2-3 record on their seven-game road trip heading into the All-Star break.
Offensively, the Reds outhit the Braves, 10-4, although they were only 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Leadoff man Shin-Soo Choo and No. 2 batter Derrick Robinson combined for four hits and three runs, while cleanup man Brandon Phillips contributed a key two-run first-inning single. Zack Cozart also had two hits on the night, while All-Star Joey Votto went 1-for-4 with a walk. Votto reached base safely for a season-high 27th consecutive game and raised his Major League-leading on-base percentage to .431.
As on Thursday night, Cincinnati jumped on Atlanta's starter right away, this time reaching Kris Medlen (6-9) for three first-inning runs. Choo singled to center to lead off -- extending his hitting streak to 10 games, during which he's batting .405 -- and Robinson, who was moved into the second slot, beat out a bunt in front of the plate preceding a walk to Votto, which loaded the bases. Phillips cashed in on the opportunity, ripping a two-run single to center on a 3-2 pitch.
"Choo and Robinson did a great job today. I feel like Choo is the MVP of this team. We've got to find ways to drive him in. That's my job," said Phillips, who has done his job 71 times, tops among Major League second basemen and third among all NL batters. "When he does what he does, if I do my job, we win. I did my job today and we won.
"Robinson is doing a great job when he starts. He's using his wheels and that's a beautiful thing."
After Jay Bruce hit into a double play, Todd Frazier hit a liner into center that eluded diving Braves center fielder B.J. Upton. As the ball rolled away from Upton, who lie on the ground injured -- he would leave the game with a right adductor strain -- Votto trotted home from third, with Frazier legging out his second triple of the season.
Cincinnati would add another run in the fifth on a Bruce sacrifice fly, scoring Robinson, who singled and moved to third on a Votto double.
That was plenty of offense for Arroyo, who threw 57 of his 90 pitches for strikes, striking out three and walking one. He retired the first eight Braves he faced and allowed only one runner past first base all night. That one runner came on the only mistake he made, a 3-2 fastball to Brian McCann with two outs in the seventh, which the Braves catcher deposited into the right-field seats.
"I had a little bit of zip on my fastball and a little sharper breaking ball, which I haven't had in a while," Arroyo said. "I commanded the game the way I wanted to. The mistakes I did make, they popped them up. It seemed like nothing was really going wrong."
Even with Arroyo and catcher Devin Mesoraco not necessarily on the same wavelength early on, things worked out well.
"I usually only use two signs, a one and a two, and when the one goes down, I have about five different pitches that I can throw off of it," Arroyo said. "[Mesoraco] said the first seven batters of the game he didn't guess one right pitch. So I guess it works. But I've thrown to him enough and he knows my style enough that we can get away with some things if you can command the ball."
The Braves knew Arroyo's style pretty well, too, coming into Friday with a collective .311 average against the veteran, but they couldn't connect. Arroyo had only four three-ball counts in his seventh quality start in his last eight appearances. He's a hard-luck 3-2 in those games, and this marked his second win in his last three starts. Arroyo raised his career record against the Braves to 7-4 (the Reds are 10-8 in those games), and he is now 4-2 at Turner Field.
"That's the way he pitches," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. "That's no surprise. Every time we face him, he pitches like he's in the backyard playing Wiffle ball. There's not any pitch he can't throw in any count. His arm angle changes from pitch to pitch and he competes."
Staying true to the team's honor system, Arroyo turned the game over to the bullpen in the eighth. His faith was rewarded as Sam LeCure threw a scoreless eighth before Aroldis Chapman closed the game for his 21st save in 24 tries, although he allowed a run, ending the bullpen's franchise-record scoreless streak of 10 games and 33 2/3 scoreless innings.
While Chapman gave up the run, he electrified the crowd during his matchup against first baseman Freddie Freeman. Chapman threw six pitches, the first five of which came in at 102, 102, 104, 103 and 103 mph. Freeman poked the sixth pitch, a 91-mph changeup into center for a single.
The Reds' closer, who was pitching in front of his parents, then broke McCann's bat with 102-mph heat, leading to an infield pop to first to close out the game.
"He was rested. He hadn't thrown in a couple of days and he was psyched, because his mother and father were here," said Baker. "So he had a lot going for him. There was a lot of excitement going on in the stands, a lot of tomahawks going and chanting. It makes for a good atmosphere when you come here to Atlanta."