"We knew looking at the schedule that this was probably the toughest stretch we'd have all year," said left fielder Adam Dunn, who hit an important three-run homer in the seventh. "For us to come out with a winning record, things are definitely looking up."
The Reds, who are 17-28 on the road this season compared to 21-17 at Great American Ball Park, had dropped 20 of the previous 21 road trips dating back to the 2006 season. Their only other winning road trip during the stretch came in August of last year.
"It means a lot to me," Reds manager Dusty Baker said of the positive trip. "I could tell by the laughter and the attitude out there that it means a lot to them, too. I imagine it's been a tough couple of years. It's been tough this year. When you're getting beat on the road, it doesn't leave a very good taste in your mouth. You're not hungry. You're not anything."
Although the Yankees were hot before the Reds visited, the Blue Jays and Indians were last-place teams. After years of road futility against good, bad and ugly teams, the Reds didn't care.
"This was nice," Reds starter Bronson Arroyo said, "coming off what we did at home [2-7 on the previous homestand] and looking at the Yankees, Blue Jays and Indians. It's probably the best road trip we've had in the three years I've been here, as far as going away knowing it was going to be a rough road and coming back feeling pretty good about yourself."
A five-run fifth inning made the game more comfortable for Arroyo. With runners on second and third base and one out, Indians starter Aaron Laffey (4-5) aired a wild pitch to Jeff Keppinger that scored Cincinnati's first run. Keppinger stroked a RBI double, and Brandon Phillips added a two-out RBI single to center field. Edwin Encarnacion capped the inning with a two-run homer to left field for a five-run lead.
"I already felt like I was on a pretty good little roll," Arroyo said. "To get those five [runs] was huge, especially in the midpoint of the game. We got their starter out of there."
Coming off the worst start of his career at Toronto -- 10 earned runs and 11 hits over one-plus inning -- Arroyo (5-7) fared much better this time around. He threw six innings and gave up two runs (one earned) with two walks and six strikeouts. But, the right-hander said, that didn't necessarily mean he pitched better.
"I threw probably a lot more bad pitches than I did in Toronto," said Arroyo, who struck out the side in the first inning after allowing a leadoff single. "It's the truth. I left a lot of balls up in the zone and it was just one of those days. I came out in the first inning and [pitching coach] Dick Pole goes, 'It must be turning for you, because you just hung two curveballs, bad.' And I struck the guy out."
Through his first five scoreless innings, Arroyo gave up only two singles. Cleveland scored two runs in the sixth, including Grady Sizemore's leadoff home run to center field.
Dunn sealed the game with two outs in the seventh when he hit Rick Bauer's 3-2 pitch into the right-field seats for a three-run homer. It proved necessary, because the Indians added one run in the eighth off reliever Gary Majewski and two in the ninth against Jeremy Affeldt.
Not only did the Reds take two of three from the equally slumping Indians, they won five of the six games during the Interleague rivalry series known as the Ohio Cup. Dunn went 6-for-20 in the six-game series, with five home runs and 10 RBIs, and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the matchup.
In the field, Dunn also made two nice catches on the run and got an assist in the sixth for throwing out Casey Blake trying to stretch a single into a double. At the plate, Dunn was also hit by two pitches and was even involved in a hard home-plate collision. He was thrown out trying to score from first base on a second-inning double.
"Boy, it was Adam Dunn Day out there," Baker said.
"It seems like when you're really involved in a game like that, it seems like every ball is hit to you," said Dunn, who has a team-leading 20 homers and 48 RBIs while hitting .224. "It's a lot of fun to go out there and run around and see what happens."
And this time for all the Reds, what happens on the road shouldn't stay on the road. It needs to happen at home, too.