Bruce hit a go-ahead single as a pinch-hitter in his return from the disabled list and Brandon Phillips homered to help the Cincinnati Reds beat the Houston Astros 3-1 on Monday night.
Making his first appearance in more than two months, Bruce bounced a two-run single through the right side to give Cincinnati a 2-1 lead in the seventh inning.
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“That was a lot of fun,” he said. “It was pretty exciting to be out that long and come back and help the team win.”
The bases-loaded grounder barely eluded first baseman Lance Berkman and second baseman Kaz Matsui, making a winner of Bronson Arroyo.
“Sometimes placement is better than hitting the ball hard,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “He couldn’t have thrown the ball any better through there.”
Bruce broke his wrist making a diving catch against the New York Mets on July 11. After his big hit Monday, he stayed in the game and made a sliding catch of Miguel Tejada‘s liner leading off the ninth.
Arroyo (13-12) allowed six hits and one run with no walks and six strikeouts in seven innings. He also hit a batter with a pitch.
“You don’t get too many games where you leave the game losing by one and end up winning,” Arroyo said. “It was nice to steal that one back.”
Arroyo is 5-4 with a 2.11 ERA over his last 13 starts. Baker was glad to see his right-hander get rewarded for pitching well.
“Bronson deserved to win that one,” Baker said. “He’s been pitching great, especially in the second half of the season. He was masterful tonight.”
Arthur Rhodes and Nick Masset teamed up to pitch a scoreless eighth inning. Francisco Cordero worked the ninth for his 35th save, one more than he totaled last season, his first with the Reds.
Phillips added an insurance run with a one-out solo homer off Jeff Fulchino in the eighth, his 20th of the season and first in 46 at-bats since Sept. 2 against Pittsburgh.
Houston left-hander Wandy Rodriguez was almost as effective as Arroyo. Rodriguez (13-10) gave up just five hits and two runs with two walks and eight strikeouts while pitching into the seventh inning.
Rodriguez scattered four hits and allowed one runner past second base before the Reds broke through in the seventh. Scott Rolen led off with a walk and Jonny Gomes doubled into the left-field corner. That’s when Astros manager Cecil Cooper decided to bring in a reliever.
“Wandy deserved a better fate than what he received,” Cooper said. “I take the blame for that. He was close to 100 pitches. You can’t let your starter lose the game.”
Rodriguez wanted the chance to pitch out of the jam.
“I have no control over that,” he said. “He says go, I go. That’s what I do.”
Samuel Gervachio was brought in with Gomes on second and Rolen on third. The right-hander struck out pinch-hitter Juan Francisco before intentionally walking pinch-hitter Kevin Barker. Bruce was sent up to bat for Arroyo. Houston brought in left-hander Wesley Wright, who gave up Bruce’s go-ahead hit.
“I’d rather be lucky than good,” Bruce said of the seeing-eye single. “My teammates battled all game, and I was glad to see that ball get through and drive those guys in.”
Arroyo had retired seven consecutive batters and 12 of 13 when Berkman grounded a broken-bat single through the hole into left field with two outs in the sixth. Carlos Lee followed by lining a double up the gap to the right-center wall, with Berkman scoring all the way from first base.
Back in the dugout, Astros pitcher Bud Norris fanned Berkman with a towel.
Tejada lined a single to center, too sharply for Lee to score from second, and after Cincinnati pitching coach Dick Pole visited Arroyo on the mound, Hunter Pence flied out to Drew Stubbs one step in front of the center-field fence.
The Reds activated Bruce from the 15-day disabled list and recalled Francisco from Triple-A Louisville. Francisco made his major league debut. … Cooper said rookie RHP Yorman Bazardo will start Wednesday’s series finale. The start will be Bazardo’s third of the season and first since allowing eight earned runs in two innings in a 14-7 loss at Arizona on Aug. 28. … Lee needs five RBIs to reach 100 for the fifth consecutive season and sixth time overall.