CINCINNATI – Bronson Arroyo hasn’t seen many good second halves in his seven seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, so the veteran right-hander is trying to enjoy this one as much as he can.
Arroyo shook off a shaky start, Todd Frazier hit a two-run home run and Ryan Ludwick and Jay Bruce added solo shots as the Reds beat the Chicago Cubs 7-3 in the opener of a four-game weekend series Friday night.
Cincinnati, coming off a loss to the New York Mets on Thursday that snapped a five-game winning streak, began the day leading the NL Central by six games and improved to a major league-best 25-9 since the All-Star break.
Usually, we’ve had big slides in the second half, and that’s taken the wind out of our sails, Arroyo said. This year, we feel like the ball’s always rolling in your direction.
Manager Dusty Baker liked knowing the Reds would at least pick up ground on one of their two closest pursuers with second-place Pittsburgh playing at third-place St. Louis. Pittsburgh won 2-1.
Any time you win, it’s good, but with the Pirates playing the Cardinals, you know you’re going to pick up ground on somebody, he said.
Arroyo (9-7) has been a big part of the surge, improving to 5-1 in his last six starts. He gave up nine hits and three runs with three walks, three strikeouts and a wild pitch in 6 1/3 innings.
Jose Arredondo, Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman combined to pitch scoreless relief the rest of the way.
The Reds had six extra-base hits in five innings against streaky former teammate Travis Wood (4-9), who has lost his last six decisions after winning four straight starts.
With Chicago leading 3-1, the Reds got five runs and six hits in the bottom of the fourth inning, starting with Ludwick’s 23rd homer of the season. Wood hit Bruce with a pitch, and Frazier gave the Reds a 4-3 lead with his 16th homer of the season.
Cincinnati added two runs with two outs on doubles by Arroyo and Zack Cozart and a triple by Drew Stubbs.
It didn’t look good for a while, but we answered back when they scored, Baker said. We were on (Wood) pretty good in that inning.
Wood allowed more runs and hits in that inning than the five hits and one run he allowed in seven innings against Cincinnati last Sunday in Chicago.
The doors fell off, he said. We took a game plan out there, and I didn’t make adjustments soon enough.
Wood lasted five innings, giving up seven runs – six earned – with three strikeouts.