Not even Bronson Arroyo’s eighth consecutive quality start at Great American Ball Park and free pizza for the 32,669 in attendance could send Cincinnati Reds fans home happy Sunday afternoon.
Arroyo allowed just three runs on five hits in six innings, but a Reds offense that scored 13 runs the day before was rendered punchless by Seattle starter Joe Saunders as the Mariners claimed a 3-1 victory in the rubber game of the interleague series.
“We just couldn’t get anything going,” said Reds manager Dusty Baker, whose squad managed only four hits through the first six innings before Todd Frazier and Chris Heisey delivered back-to-back doubles in the seventh to account for the team’s lone run — snapping a string of 11 batters in a row retired by Saunders.
“We’ve hit Saunders well in the past, so I thought we’d manage more than one run off of him,” Baker added. “We’re very satisfied with the job Bronson gave us.”
Arroyo had been 6-1 with seven quality starts — at least six innings pitched with three or fewer runs allowed — in his first seven starts at Great American Ball Park this season, and he turned in another one Sunday. But the Mariners, as they did in all three games of the series, jumped out to an early lead on a solo home run by Nick Franklin in the first inning and a two-run shot by Justin Smoak in the third.
“I was never really in a groove today,” said Arroyo, who had six of the team’s 11 strikeouts to reward those in attendance with a free pizza, the 15th time Reds pitchers have triggered the promotion.
“It was just a hard-fought battle for me,” Arroyo added. “I mean eight left-handed guys. I didn’t have my sharpest of stuff, and I was having to make a lot of max-effort pitches. I knew we were down three already and the flow of the game wasn’t feeling conducive to us putting four on the board anytime soon.
“I was having to take every inning like it was do-or-die for me, just to give us an opportunity to come back in the ballgame,” he continued. “Today was a game where we’re losing 3-0 and it felt like it was 10-0 because we couldn’t keep any pressure on their defense.”
The loss cost the Reds a chance to make up ground on division-leading Pittsburgh, which fell 4-3 in 11 innings at Chicago to drop into a tie with St. Louis. Cincinnati is 3.5 games behind the Pirates and Cardinals as it heads into a stretch that will see the team play just three home games in a 25-day span.
It begins tonight with a three-game series in Milwaukee, followed by four in Atlanta leading into the All-Star break. A quick three-game set at home against Pittsburgh opens the second half of the season before the Reds embark on a 10-game road trip to the West Coast that will see them play three in San Francisco, four in Los Angeles and three in San Diego.
“Everybody has that somewhere on their schedule, where they have a month where they’re gone a lot,” Baker said. “We’ve just got to be the best road team that month. You don’t have a choice. And also, a big challenge going to the west. It always has been.”