ST. LOUIS -- Bronson Arroyo could almost see this one coming a mile away. With his Reds coming off a 10-run night and a season-high 17 hits in Tuesday's win over the Cardinals, Arroyo couldn't help wondering if there'd be any offense left to support his outing on Wednesday. "Just because when you get a ton one night, a lot of times you come out and struggle," Arroyo said. "Especially the way it's been going for me, there's a real good chance it's going to happen."
Sure enough, Cincinnati dropped a 5-2 series-evening loss to St. Louis at Busch Stadium. While Arroyo gave his team seven strong innings, allowing one run on five hits and a walk in a no-decision, the lineup reciprocated with just one run and three hits while Arroyo was on the mound and five hits total. Arroyo was lifted when it was a 1-1 game. A four-run St. Louis eighth against reliever Kirk Saarloos, including Albert Pujols' two-run double for the go-ahead score, sent the Reds to the loss. Still 0-2, Arroyo is winless in his five starts despite owning a 2.86 ERA. Working into the seventh inning each time, his last four starts have all been quality ones with two earned runs or less allowed. The Reds' offense seems to be its stingiest when Arroyo is starting. It has scored two or fewer runs four out of five times. "If Arroyo continues to pitch well, and I'm sure he will, we'll get it going and he'll win a lot of games," said Reds manager Jerry Narron. Cardinals starter Braden Looper made sure Arroyo would remain unlucky when he held the Reds to one earned run and three hits over seven innings. Looper kept Cincinnati hitless until Alex Gonzalez hit a one-out single in the top of the fifth inning. Gonzalez, who had four hits Tuesday, had three more on Wednesday. Following Scott Rolen's leadoff double off Arroyo in the fourth, the Cardinals scored their first run on Jim Edmonds' RBI single. Leading off the Reds' sixth, Josh Hamilton launched Looper's first pitch 426 feet to the left-center-field seats for a game-tying home run. It was Hamilton's team-leading sixth homer and 12th RBI of the season. Arroyo retired his final 10 batters but, with him slated to be the leadoff batter in the eighth, Narron tried to spark something -- anything -- by sending Ryan Freel in to pinch-hit. "I was fine," said Arroyo, who threw 96 pitches. "[Pitching coach Dick Pole] came down pretty quick and said 'Good game.' I assumed Jerry had his mind made up and was going to go and hit for me. He didn't even ask me how I was feeling." Continuing a recent trend of turbulent eighth innings for the Reds' bullpen, Saarloos (0-2) began by giving up a bloop single to right field by David Eckstein. A walk to Chris Duncan followed, which set it up for Pujols with no outs. "Nowhere to put him," Narron said. After fouling off a pair of 1-2 pitches, Pujols smoked a 2-2 pitch from Saarloos through the gap in right-center field for a double, which easily scored both runners. Two more runs crossed with Victor Santos on the mound when Preston Wilson reached on Gonzalez's throwing error and Yadier Molina added a sacrifice fly. The bullpen has taken five of the Reds' 11 losses. "I just threw a backdoor sinker [to Pujols] that caught too much plate," Saarloos explained. "He didn't try and pull it and went to right-center. But the real thing was the walk. I was trying to get a double-play ball from Duncan. I ended up walking him, compounding the base hit to start it off. I stunk pretty much. I didn't get anybody out." Saarloos' struggles proved huge the next inning. Adam Dunn hit a leadoff double and Scott Hatteberg drove him in with a two-out single. Two batters later with runners on first and second, pinch-hitter Javier Valentin was the potential tying run at the plate before grounding into a game-ending fielder's choice against closer Jason Isringhausen. In the meantime, Arroyo isn't seeking pity. He just seeks an unbelievably elusive 'W.' "You always get a little bit disappointed when you don't win ballgames," Arroyo said. "But for the team not to win ballgames anytime I've been out there is disappointing. We win 3-1 right there and I get a no-decision, you feel like it's a victory regardless. When you come in here and it's a down atmosphere because we've lost, it doesn't make you feel too good regardless of how you've thrown."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.