It was assumed Arroyo had drawn the longest straw this series: the Giants' Barry Zito was supposed to represent a break between All-Star right-handers Tim Lincecum (whom the Reds battled Friday) and Matt Cain (the probable starter in Sunday's finale). In 2008, Cincinnati scored 15 earned runs against Zito and beat him twice.
Saturday, the veteran lefty pulled a 180, holding his visitors to just two runs on three hits over six-plus innings. Plus, the three Giants relievers behind him made sure there was no repeat of Friday night, when the Reds, aided by five total errors, erupted for seven late-inning runs.
"He's throwing the ball better," manager Dusty Baker said of Zito. "I think he has better command of the strike zone than he had the last time we saw him."
Unlike Friday's game, in which eight free passes were issued, both teams' pitchers commanded the zone. The starters, Arroyo (10-11) and Zito (8-10), represented quite the pitching duel considering each entered the game with 10 losses.
Arroyo allowed three runs on seven hits over seven innings. He didn't walk a batter.
"He threw a very good game," Baker said. "He's got to find a way to get [Eugenio] Velez and [Bengie] Molina out; that's most of their offense."
In fact, Velez and Molina struck five of their team's eight hits and drove in all four runs Saturday. That started with Molina's first-inning RBI double.
But the Reds responded with a run in both the second (Wladimir Balentien's RBI double) and the fourth (Jonny Gomes' RBI single) frames to secure a 2-1 lead.
Arroyo had retired nine in a row when things unraveled in the Giants' two-run sixth. Seeking a groundout, Arroyo threw a changeup to Velez, who in turn lifted it over the right-center-field brick wall to tie the game at 2-2. Freddy Sanchez's follow-up single initiated a rally, with Cincinnati aid.
"We were still right there [after Velez's blast]. No big deal," Arroyo said. "But we gave them that extra run and it wound up costing us the game."
That extra run came on shortstop Alex Gonzalez's seventh error of the season. Gonzalez made an over-the-shoulder basket catch on Pablo Sandoval's blooper, but trying to pick Sanchez off first base, he threw wide of the bag and the ball skipped into the dugout. As a result, Sanchez was awarded third base and Molina drove him in to take the lead.
"It was real close. In that situation, you can't let the ball get by you," Baker said of his shortstop's attempt at a double play. "At worse, you keep the runner at [first] base. Looked like [Joey Votto] missed it by inches.
"It was their day yesterday, and our day today, to make costly errors."
Zito, meanwhile, had retired seven in a row when he walked Balentien to start the Cincinnati half of the seventh. Reliever Bob Howry allowed a single to Adam Rosales (a late lineup addition for the injured Scott Rolen), but the veteran righty induced a double-play ball from Ryan Hanigan to end the most serious late-inning threat.