After leading baseball in starts over the last eight seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, Bronson Arroyo is set to face them for the first time in nearly nine years.
The Arizona Diamondbacks hope his recent run of success continues against his former team Friday night.
Arroyo (4-3, 4.15 ERA) signed a two-year deal with Arizona (23-33) in February worth $23.5 million after going 105-94 for Cincinnati with a 4.05 ERA over 265 starts – the most in the majors from 2006-2013.
"These guys know my game as good as anybody. (Reds manager) Bryan Price, I’ve probably been as intimate with him as anybody I’ve ever been with in the game about my pitching style and my selection and why I do things," Arroyo told the team’s official website. Price served as his pitching coach the last four seasons.
"He’s heard me talk about my idea of how to beat hitters and my theory on it for a very long time," he said.
After a rough start to his Diamondbacks tenure – he compiled a 9.50 ERA in his first four outings – he appears to have settled in, going 3-1 over his last six starts with a 1.90 ERA. One of the reasons for his success may be his ability to limit the long ball.
Arroyo entered the season allowing 1.24 homers per nine innings for his career – one of the highest rates among active pitchers. However, he’s yielded just two home runs over his last six starts spanning 42 2-3 innings.
The right-hander did draw some concern following his last start when manager Kirk Gibson told reporters he had a tender elbow after allowing a run and six hits in six innings of a 2-1 win against the Mets. He’s still yet to miss a regular-season start in his career.
"I’m banged up all the time," Arroyo told the team’s website, downplaying that assessment. "It’s not new news."
He last faced the Reds (23-29) on June 15, 2005, yielding a run and six hits over seven innings in a 6-1 victory with Boston.
Mike Leake (2-4, 2.79), who considered Arroyo one of his mentors while spending his first four big league seasons as his teammate, gets the nod for Cincinnati. He’s winless over his last seven starts – matching the longest stretch without a victory in his career – despite a 2.72 ERA. He’s received 12 total runs of support over 49 2-3 innings in that span and his 3.04 run-support average is the lowest of his career.
Leake was saddled with another tough-luck loss Sunday in a 4-0 defeat to St. Louis despite limiting the Cardinals to two runs over six innings and striking out a season high-tying eight.
"I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing," said Leake, who is 2-0 with a 6.10 ERA in five starts versus Arizona. "I can’t control that stuff."
He may have to be prepared for the dearth of run support to continue, as the Reds have scored three runs or fewer in each game of a 1-5 stretch. Friday marked the second shutout in that span as they were limited to three hits by Josh Collmenter.
"We are going to be OK," said Brayan Pena, who accounted for two of those hits. "We trust each other."
The Diamondbacks, meanwhile, have won five of seven and are the closest they’ve been to .500 since being 4-14 after April 16.
Martin Prado is 10 for 23 over his last six games with nine RBIs, while Pena is 11 for 24 during a six-game hitting streak and 12 for 25 in his last seven contests against Arizona.