CINCINNATI — As the team’s relic, the player with the most service in a Cincinnati Reds uniform, pitcher Bronson Arroyo knows how this team rolls.
And it continues to roll downhill at a scary pace, flattening any flotsam in its path.
Arroyo was not on his best mound behavior in Great American Ball Park Friday night, nor was his usually stone cold perfect defense.
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So the Reds fell behind by two runs in the fourth inning to the moribund Chicago Cubs.
No muss, no fuss, no sweat.
When the night was over, Arroyo had his ninth win, 7-3, and the Reds had their 25th win in 34 games since the All-Star break, a period that included an unfathomable five-game losing streak.
Arroyo gave up nine hits and three walks in 6 2/3 innings, but only three runs and his offensive-minded brethren took care of former teammates Travis Wood.
Ryan Ludwick homered. Todd Frazier homered. Jay Bruce homered for the fourth time in five games
Of the Reds monotonous litany of victories, which they’ve to expect and accept, Arroyo said, “That’s what you look for because this has happened a whole lot in the seven years I’ve been here. We’ve always had big slides that took the wind out of our sails.
“Since the All-Star break that hasn’t happened and it always keeps you feeling like the ball is roiling in right direction. If you lose one you feel like you’ll come back and win the next game and win a series to stay in a positive mentality.”
And it is a comfort zone for a pitcher to know that if he falls behind he has a team behind him ready to reverse the trend and rescue the game.
“As good as we’ve played lately you can put it aside when you fall behind and not fret over it,” said Arroyo. “Early on this year it was hard for us to come back from deficits and score some runs. But lately we’ve gotten big hits and battled. When you come back to win games it frees up your mind.”
The Reds have played since the All-star break without first baseman Joey Votto and instead of fretting and falling back, they have high-stepped it over falling bodies of their National League Central foes.
Perhaps the biggest guy to pick-it-up is left fielder Ryan Ludwick, who slumbered through April like a hibernating bear. But when he woke up, he awakened with a roar.
His home run Friday, a leadoff shot that torched a five-run fourth inning that turned the game around, was his 23rd this season, 11 since the All-Star break, second best in the National League.
He has homered in four of his last seven games and is on a nine-game hitting streak that has produced 23 RBI.
“It has been amazing,” said Arroyo. “He is finally feeling like himself. In spring training he was telling me, ‘I just want to get back to feeling like I used to,’ which sometimes can be elusive in this game. He started off as bad as you can possible start (in April) and to turn that around and be hitting ,271 and put up the rounds he has in the second half is amazing.”
Ludwick signed a one-year deal last winter, but the club holds a $5 million option for next season and that’s $5 million Ludwick can count upon to find in his checking/saving accounts in 2013.
The other major player during the asbsence of Votto is the man taking his place at first base, rookie Todd Frazier.
After blasting a ball 474 feet earlier this week, 10th longest home run in Great American Ball Park history, Frazier concluded the five-run fourth with a two-run home run, his 16th.
Frazier has hits in seven of his last eight games with three homers and nine RBI and in six of the eight games he has more than one hit.
“That was a big five-run inning, especially after they’d just come back on us to take a 3-1 lead,” Frazier said.
Of his team’s propensities, Frazier said, “We’re so relaxed. We know our pitching staff is going to be there. We know we have the hitters. Guys step up, every single day. Everybody knows their roles and when you knoq your role everything is going to be fine. It’s pretty fun to watch and be around.”
Asked if his role is to hit gargantuan home runs, Frazier smiled and said, “Get the guys in when I have a chance, play first (for Vott) or third (for Scott Rolen) when they flip the coin to see where I play. That’s really about it. And have fun. That’s really about it.”