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Arroyo stellar as Reds blank Brewers

Arroyo stellar as Reds blank Brewers

CINCINNATI -- Bronson Arroyo is no dummy. The starting pitcher is keenly aware of the Reds' current situation.

Arroyo has been of vintage quality while pitching with urgency in his past two starts. His seven scoreless innings set the tone during a 4-0 Reds victory over the Brewers on Friday night. While notching his 10th win, the right-hander gave up six hits and two walks with six strikeouts.

Coming off a four-hitter vs. the Mets before the All-Star break, Arroyo now has a streak of 16 scoreless innings and is responsible for Cincinnati's only two wins over its past seven games.

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"We're on the brink of sliding downhill or fighting our way back into this thing," Arroyo said. "Every game for the rest of the year is going to be huge for us. Everybody knows July 31 [Trade Deadline] is always around the corner and looming. We want to continue to keep this team together. [Manager] Dusty [Baker] said in a meeting the other day that if you continue to win, they can't remove pieces."

At 43-46, the Reds remained 5 1/2 games behind the first-place Cardinals in the National League Central and 2 1/2 games out of second place.

Unlike the Mets game when no one reached second base, Arroyo had to fend off the Brewers a few times on Friday. In the seventh inning, he proved that sometimes the best pitching change is the one that isn't made.

Leading by three runs at the time, Arroyo had slugger Ryan Braun in the batter's box representing the go-ahead run with the bases loaded and one out; Home Run Derby champion Prince Fielder was waiting on deck.

Before Braun, Arroyo threw 108 pitches, and Baker appeared to signal for a change. Reliever Nick Masset even exited the bullpen and started his trot to the mound. Then the situation took a twist, because Arroyo stayed in the game.

"I like to look in their eyes. You can see a lot in their eyes," Baker said. "He said he was feeling strong. I said, 'OK, let's get them.' Bronson is a tough read sometimes. His pitch count doesn't mean as much as other guys' pitch counts, because he doesn't exert much effort out there."

Masset made a U-turn back to the bullpen. On Arroyo's first pitch to Braun, he hit a grounder to third base that Edwin Encarnacion grabbed and threw to second base for the force play. Running from first base, Mike Cameron slid hard into shortstop Brandon Phillips, well beyond second base. Umpire Mike Causey ruled interference, which meant both Cameron and Braun were out.

Rally over, inning over.

"We didn't have to face Prince, which was huge," Baker said.

Cameron and Brewers manager Ken Macha argued to no avail.

"He did his job, but just went too far past the bag," Phillips said of Cameron. "I think he slid too late and his momentum went real far, and I was way out of the way and he still hit me. It was a clean play. He did what he was supposed to do but went too far. I wasn't mad or anything. The ump made a great call."

"It was a bonehead mistake by the umpire," Cameron said. "He gave a boneheaded answer. This isn't high school baseball."

Relievers Arthur Rhodes and Francisco Cordero locked down the game with the final two scoreless innings.

Arroyo doesn't have the sharpest numbers to go with his 10-8 record. He also owns a 5.07 ERA, and before the past two starts, he was pounded for losses in three consecutive games.

"I'm a roller coaster out there," Arroyo said. "Right now, I'm going good. I'll take every zero on the board I can get. The more you go out there like that, you feel confident. It takes a couple of times to get beat around before you lose that. You just try to ride the wave."

Arroyo's surge is being rivaled on the offensive side by Encarnacion, who is 7-for-7 with two home runs and six RBIs in his past two games. In a career-high-tying four-hit night, Encarnacion helped get the game's first run in when he lined a single to center field, which went between Cameron's legs for a single and a two-base error to the wall that scored Laynce Nix from first base.

In the eighth inning, it was Encarnacion's leadoff homer that put the exclamation point on the win. Since returning from the disabled list 12 games ago, he has raised his batting average 101 points from .127 to .228.

"He's been on fire," Arroyo said. "It's been good for us, because obviously, we've been lacking on the offensive side. Hopefully, he can just continue. A lot of times, stuff like that breeds across the team. We're going to need it down the stretch."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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