"My stuff has been about the same all year," said Arroyo, who allowed nine hits and one walk with five strikeouts. "There was no difference between tonight and the outings I've gone out there and closed the door. I'm just not getting the job done. It's plain and simple. Guys are thinking a little bit more with me and I'm making more mistakes that they're hurting me on."
The two biggest mistakes came in the decisive Cardinals three-run seventh. With one out and 4-3 lead, Arroyo gave up a first-pitch solo homer to left field against pinch-hitter Ryan Ludwick.
David Eckstein followed with single before Arroyo got Chris Duncan looking at strike three. Arroyo was one strike from getting out of the inning when super slugger Albert Pujols launched an 1-2 pitch over the wall in left-center field for a two-run homer.
"Pretty much all the runs they scored were mistake pitches," Arroyo said. "I was trying to freeze [Pujols] with a heater in and wound up going middle-away. He hit it just right."
Arroyo (2-7, 5.19 ERA overall), who threw 119 pitches in the game, gave no thought to pitching around Pujols in that situation.
"If I put him on, I'm probably out of the game anyway," Arroyo said. "We've probably got [Mike] Stanton in to face a lefty [Jim Edmonds]. I have to go at him. I'm up on the count and I have to try and beat him there to keep it a tie game and give us chance to win."
Arroyo has allowed at least six runs in each of his last four outings. But unlike the previous three, where he didn't get past the fifth inning, he appeared sharp in the early going and retired 12 of the first 14 batters he faced.
The first St. Louis run was more a mental mistake than a physical one. After Scott Rolen hit a one-out double in the second inning, Arroyo didn't check the runner with Juan Encarnacion batting. Rolen stole third base standing up and scored easily on Encarnacion's sacrifice fly to right field.
Scott Hatteberg's one-out solo home run to right field got the run back in the third inning. A three-run top of the fifth, aided by RBI doubles from Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn, gave Cincinnati a 4-1 lead.
It didn't hold up. St. Louis scored two runs in the fifth, and kept within striking distance.
Reds manager Jerry Narron felt a little surprised that Arroyo has had a rough run of late.
"He's definitely a guy that has to have good command of all his pitches and his command has been off," Narron said. "He pitched well tonight, and especially there early. I look for him to pitch well his next time out."
Arroyo always expects the music to be sweeter the next time out, especially since he's been through a lengthy dry spell before. A season ago, after he was 9-3 in his first 15 starts through June 19, he went 1-6 over the next 13 outings. He finished 4-0 down the stretch.
"The longer I'm in the game, the easier it is to forget about bad performances," Arroyo said. "You show up every day. You do what you try to do to get prepared and you show up on game day and hope you put up a good show. If you don't, forget about it as soon as possible because it won't help you to sit and dwell on it."
Cincinnati, owners of the National League's worst record at 22-38, has dropped four-straight games. It fell to 3-5 on the road trip with one game left to play in the already lost series with St. Louis.
One bright spot on the night was the big-league debut of reliever Marcus McBeth in the normally troublesome eighth inning for the Reds bullpen. McBeth, who had seen no action over two different callups, retired the side in order on just nine pitches.
"It was nice to see him come out and throw strikes," Narron said. "He appeared to be very poised for his first Major League outing."
Benefiting from veteran advice given by Stanton and David Weathers, McBeth didn't feel overwhelmed by the occasion.
"I felt good about being able to control my emotions," McBeth said. "I went in there. I had a job to do and I just wanted to get it done."