Arroyo goes the distance to down Cards

Arroyo tosses gem to beat Cards

CINCINNATI -- As pitcher Bronson Arroyo took to the mound for the Reds on Monday, his former Red Sox club was facing the Yankees for the first time this season at Fenway Park.

Although his lifetime numbers weren't particularly stellar against New York (a 5.45 regular season ERA and 9.82 in postseason), Arroyo is no stranger to that heated, and most intense of rivalries in sports. He lived it the previous three seasons -- both in the regular season and playoffs.

Everything else must seem like gravy right now.

It definitely appeared that way as the right-hander tossed a four-hit complete game for a 6-1 victory over a Cardinals club that features slugger Albert Pujols.

"Facing the Yankees 19 times a year, that lineup is so power packed -- even the eight hole and nine hole sometimes. It's tough to pitch to," Arroyo said. "It's mentally wearing on you as the game goes on. For me to be over here in the National League, just to have the pitcher in the nine hole, gives me a little bit of breathing room. I don't think there's any lineup in the National League that can compare with that one. For me, it feels like it's easier to get over the hump."

Issuing three walks and striking out four while throwing 109 pitches, the only run Arroyo gave up was Juan Encarnacion's second-inning home run to left field. He dispatched St. Louis in two hours, 20 minutes -- the shortest game this season at Great American Ball Park.

"He likes to get ahead of guys," said Reds shortstop Felipe Lopez, who was 2-for-5 with three RBIs. "For infielders, it keeps us on our toes. He keeps the game moving."

Arroyo kept Pujols in check with a 0-for-3 game with two flyouts and a popup. Pujols, who slugged a Major League record 14 homers in April, drew a sixth-inning walk with one out that put runners on first and second as Cincinnati clung to a one-run lead.

"I tried to take him out of the equation tonight," Arroyo said. "I got a couple of nice popups from him early, and there was really no danger. The one time he came up, I thought things were getting a little hairy, I gave him some breaking balls off the dish to see if he'd fish. He didn't. We went after the rest of the guys."

Jim Edmonds slugged a high fastball to the warning track for an out in center field before Scott Spiezio popped out to second base. The Reds responded with four runs in the bottom of the sixth off Cardinals starter Mark Mulder (2-1) to seal the game.

Lopez, who snapped a 0-for-17 streak with a fifth-inning RBI single for the go-ahead run, returned in the sixth with a bases-loaded single off reliever Josh Hancock that scored two more runs.

That allowed Arroyo to coast on home. He finished by retiring 11 of his last 12 hitters. An appreciative 20,900 fans were already offering a standing ovation when the pitcher finished the eighth inning.

The outcome was much more favorable than his previous start against the Cardinals. In his only subpar performance this season -- an April 16 no-decision won by the Reds, 8-7 -- Arroyo blew a lead by giving up back-to-back homers to Pujols and Scott Rolen.

Like with Boston against New York in the AL East, Arroyo will draw a sizeable amount of assignments to face the NL Central-rival Cardinals this season and beyond.

"This is the one team I want to make sure I can feel comfortable [against] and feel like I can beat them," he said.

This was the second complete game of Arroyo's career. The last came in his pre-Boston days on Oct. 2, 2001, as a member of the Pirates against the Mets.

The Reds' acquisition of Arroyo from the Red Sox for outfielder Wily Mo Pena has all the makings of being one of baseball's best deals of the year. The 29-year-old is off to a 5-0 record and a 2.06 ERA in six starts with Cincinnati. Including his one-hit, eight-inning masterpiece Wednesday at Washington in his previous outing, he's worked at least eight innings in three straight games.

No Reds pitcher has enjoyed that kind of run since Jose Rijo did it to cap the strike-shortened 1994 season. Because he's been in the American League since 2003, Arroyo felt it's given him a leg up on opposing hitters.

"Half these teams haven't seen me in a long time," he said. "When they did, I really wasn't the same pitcher that I am now. I was a young guy uncomfortable in the Major Leagues. For that, hopefully I'll have a little bit of an advantage the first half of the season."

But can he do it after the first couple of times through the National League? Reds manager Jerry Narron believes so.

"This guy is not a fluke," Narron said. "He's got a great feel for pitching. Anybody that changes speeds out there with the breaking ball like he does has a chance to be successful. He's used to pitching to good lineups. In the American League, it's up and down the order. You don't get any easy outs."

Trying to prove it's more than just the flavor of last month, Cincinnati is atop the NL Central with a baseball-best record of 18-8. Arroyo's battle-tested experience could be counted on in more meaningful games as the season wears on.

"He just brings that personality of being from a winning team," Lopez said. "He has a lot of experience, obviously, in the postseason. We're feeding off of that."

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