"We're looking for steps in the right direction. We don't have to build Rome in a day," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "But we need to make constant improvements. We have to continue to battle and put more balls in play and find ways to scratch out hits."
For a Cincinnati club that had scored 12 runs over the previous six games with five losses, this was sorely needed production. The six runs were their most since May 3 vs. the Brewers. Their 11 hits were the first double-digit hits total since last Saturday. The team hadn't scored more than three runs in a game since scoring five vs. the Cardinals on May 23.
"It was a really strong commitment to battling tonight," Price said. "Fortunately, we scored enough to win and hopefully it's a step that leads us to a much stronger offensive approach moving forward."
Facing his friend and former mentor in Arroyo, Reds starter Mike Leake pitched six innings and gave up four runs (three earned) with six hits, one walk and four strikeouts. Arroyo, who pitched for Cincinnati from 2006-13, gave up five earned runs and nine hits over seven innings.
"It was cool to face him," Leake said. "He's a guy I played with the last four years and that I've been buddies with. It's always fun to face friends. You swing and miss on certain pitches and you kind of laugh about it. I'm sure we'll have a discussion about it tomorrow."
Arroyo enjoyed the duel with his old club as well.
"Regardless of the results, that was probably one of the most enjoyable games I've pitched," Arroyo said. "When you know somebody that intimately, it's still nice to know that the guys that are beating you that they're good guys. It was just a fun competition."
The offensive support might have seemed like heaven-sent for Leake, who came in with a 1.77 ERA in his last five starts but a 0-2 record that included his lineup being shut out twice.
In response to the recent anemic run production, namely a three-hit game Thursday when Arizona starter Josh Collmenter faced the minimum 27 batters, Price adjusted his lineup for better matchups vs. Arroyo. The most interesting move was inserting .146 hitter and outfielder Roger Bernadina at first base for the first time in his career.
Bernadina had two hits, including an RBI double in the sixth inning to improve to 9-for-13 lifetime vs. Arroyo.
The second inning began with Jay Bruce beating the shift with a tapper on the ground to the left side. It was followed by hits from Todd Frazier and Bernadina to load the bases with no outs.
Although Mesoraco wasn't Arroyo's regular catcher when they were teammates, he is familiar with his unique and cerebral style of pitching. When Arroyo offered a first-pitch curveball, Mesoraco turned on it and launched it high and deep to the left-field seats for the second grand slam of his career and a 4-1 lead.
"I think going into the game, I was aware that he likes to flip that easy breaking ball in there for a first-pitch strike, especially in situations where he really needs a strike," Mesoraco said. "I wouldn't say I was looking for it but I went up there with an idea that may be coming."
Leake, who gave up a run in the bottom of the first inning, could settle in with the lead and retired a stretch of eight in a row.
"It definitely helped me relax a little bit and allowed me to attack their hitters a little more," said Leake, who is 3-4 with a 2.92 ERA in 11 starts.
Two-out defensive lapses cost Leake two runs in the third inning. A.J. Pollock hit a ball to third base through Frazier's glove. Originally ruled a two-base error, a scoring change later made it a double. After a Gerardo Parra RBI single, Frazier's throwing error after a Goldschmidt grounder scored Parra.
Arroyo retired seven in a row before walking Frazier in the sixth inning with one out. Bernadina followed with a rocket off the center-field wall for a RBI double that made it a two-run game.
In the bottom of the sixth with one out, Aaron Hill's RBI double to left field scored Goldschmidt and put runners on second and third base. With two outs, second baseman Brandon Phillips made a nice diving stop to his left on Ender Inciarte's grounder. Phillips threw to Leake covering the bag for the third out that saved a the tying run from scoring. The call was challenged by Arizona manager Kirk Gibson, but it stood upon review.
"A huge play there by Brandon and Leaker to get that final out of the sixth. I don't want to say a game-saver but a game-changer for sure," Price said.
Sam LeCure pitched a scoreless seventh after giving up a one-out double and Jonathan Broxton worked a perfect bottom of the eighth. Mesoraco added a solo shot with two outs in the ninth for his second career two-homer game and a career-high five RBIs.
Aroldis Chapman turned in a 1-2-3 ninth inning with two strikeouts for his sixth save.
"It was big," Price said of the victory. "There were a lot of things that went well."