PHOENIX — Bronson Arroyo refused to let a balky back and a lack of spring repetitions keep him out of the starting rotation when the season began. He is two days short of his 10-year anniversary of not missing a turn through the rotation, and he has this thing about being absent.
"I’m so terrified of not taking the ball 32, 34 times a year," Arroyo said one day in spring while working through a herniated disk. "Because I get paid to be out there on the mound, and it is frustrating as (bleep) when you watch."
The frustration has transferred to opposing hitters the last four times through the rotation. Arroyo’s 330th consecutive start was the Diamondbacks’ best of the season, and it came just when they needed it.
On a day the D-backs hoped to rest hard-working setup man Brad Ziegler and closer Addison Reed, Arroyo stepped up with the D-backs first complete game of the season, a 3-1 victory over Washington in Chase Field that put the D-backs in position win their fourth straight series on Wednesday afternoon.
With his mix of arm angles and speed variance, Arroyo limited the Nationals to seven hits and one second-inning run while striking out seven. His only walk, after Ian Desmond’s run-scoring triple in the second, was semi-intentional to set up a double play, and Arroyo got the double play out of the next batter.
He threw off-speed pitches at every spot on the dial from 71 mph to 79 mph, and Washington never timed him up.
Paul Goldschmidt, who doubled twice and drove in two runs in the sixth, was asked if it was fun to watch Arroyo work.
"It’s fun not having to face him," Goldschmidt said.
Arroyo has given up three earned runs in his last four starts combined, winning three with a failed save conversion in the other.
"After the Cubs outing (April 21), I felt pretty good but wasn’t quite there," said Arroyo, who gave up five runs in that game. "But after that I felt pretty good physically, and my weight’s up. I feel like I’ve had enough reps to feel like midseason form, and that doesn’t come, at least for a guy like myself. Unless I can get those reps in spring training, which I didn’t get. So it was a bit of a slow start, but we ride this wave as long as we can and continue to try to do the things you do to feel good."
Pitching coach Mike Harkey told Arroyo before the game that the game was his. Ziegler pitched in three straight games and leads the major leagues with 23 appearances, and Reed had pitched in two of the last three games and warmed up as if to come in the other one.
"It doesn’t matter what you think going out," Arroyo said. "Obviously play is going to dictate what happens. But he said that the bullpen was kind of spent and the setup guy and closer were going to be shut down unless we absolutely had to have them. So I was hoping to get deep in the ball game. I haven’t been able to close one out all season. Today was tailor-made for the ball club."
Arroyo played a big part in the game-deciding fifth inning rally with his bat. He sent a single to center to open the inning and took second on Martin Prado’s one-out single to center. Goldschmidt drove a hanging curve ball to the fence in left-center field to score both runners and make it 3-1.
"I got lucky today. I hit two balls soft," Arroyo said.
Arroyo, who has given up three earned runs in his last 28-2/3 innings, won for the first time at Chase Field after signing as a free agent on the opening day of spring training. The D-backs are 4-14 at Chase Field this season.
"We needed it for a lot of reasons," Arroyo said. "You just want to do it at home, just because you don’t want to start thinking there is some sort of thing going on, some sort of jinx that you can win ball games at one place."
Arroyo threw his first complete game since tossing an 11-0 shutout for Cincinnati at San Francisco on July 22, 2013, and his strikeout of leadoff man Denard Span to open the game was the 1,500th of his career. He has 16 career complete games.
"They are always great," Arroyo said. "You don’t get too many of them in a year. If you get three in a season, that’s a lot, especially for a guy like myself. I enjoy pitching a good bit of innings through the year and I got off to a slow start.
"It is my way of catching up."
Miguel Montero drove in the D-backs first run with a single and he is hitting .321 with four HRs and 19 RBIs as the cleanup hitter. He has hit cleanup in 24 games.
79 — strikes by Bronson Arroyo in his 110 pitches (72 percent).
* A.J. Pollock extended his hitting streak to seven games with a single in the fourth inning.
* It seems to have slipped under the radar, but Goldschmidt is at it again. He leads the major leagues with 16 doubles and is tied for the major league lead with Melky Cabrera with 55 hits.
* Arroyo, who has averaged 13 victories and 207 innings in the last 10 seasons, joining a starting rotation for good in Boston on May 15, 2004, and has not missed a turn in Boston, Cincinnati or Arizona since. His three relief appearances in 2005 were in emergency situations.
* Arroyo and Tim Hudson are the only two pitchers to have two-hit games against the Nationals’ 95 mph-throwing Stephen Strasburg. Crafty Arroyo and power pitcher Strasburg could not be more dissimilar. "That’s the great thing about baseball. I don’t have to beat Stephen. I just have to beat their batters," Arroyo said.
Cody Ross, in the final stages of recovery from the fractured right hip he suffered last Aug. 11, was removed for defensive purposes in the seventh inning, the fourth time he has been replaced by Ender Inciarte in the last five starts. "I’ve taken measures, because he is not moving as good," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "He knows it. He’s embraced that philosophy like any good teammate would do. It’s another way to get him off of that. You’re trying to get him into it, but he is still in rehab as well."