Five-run fourth propels Reds to victory

Five-run fourth propels Reds to victory

Five-run fourth propels Reds to victory
CINCINNATI -- No team in the Majors has been better than the Reds since the All-Star break, and it's staggering to think that their 25-9 second-half record includes a five-game losing streak last week.

Ryan Ludwick and Todd Frazier have been among those that have played significant roles in the big surge. And just this week, Jay Bruce has started to get into the act, too. In a 7-3 Reds win over the Cubs on Friday that included a five-run fourth inning, all three players supplied power by going deep with home runs.

"That hasn't happened a whole lot since I've been here in seven years," Reds starter Bronson Arroyo said of his club's second half. "We've always had big slides and it kind of just takes the wind out of your sails sometimes. Since the All-Star break, it hasn't happened. It keeps you feeling like the ball is always rolling in our direction.

"Regardless if you lose one, you always feel like you've got a chance to come in the next day and win a series and give your team a chance to stay kind of in a positive note and mentality."

As a consequence of the momentum, falling behind early in a game isn't going to freak out many on the first-place Reds.

Arroyo pitched 6 1/3 innings and gave up three runs and nine hits with three walks and three strikeouts. He surrendered Luis Valbuena's homer to begin the second inning and allowed two runs in the fourth. There was a Brett Jackson infield hit off second baseman Brandon Phillips' glove and a wild pitch to Steve Clevenger that scored Starlin Castro. Cubs pitcher Travis Wood's RBI single gave himself a 3-1 lead over Cincinnati.

"We're relaxed," said Frazier, who singled in the second inning and scored on an error. "We know our pitching staff is going to be there. We know we've got the hitters. Guys step up every single day. Everybody knows their role. When you know your role, everything's going to be fine."

The five-run bottom of the fourth started when Ludwick led off by driving Wood's first pitch into the left-field seats for his 23rd home run of the season. After Bruce was hit by a pitch, Frazier's 16th homer was a two-run shot to left field for the lead.

Ludwick has homered in four of his last seven games and has a nine-game hitting streak. He's batting .329 over his last 49 games after a horrible start to the season.

"I've always said it takes guys that are older a little longer to get it, but once they get it, they keep it for an extended period of time," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "That's what he's done. He's driving in runs, hitting home runs and what a welcome sight he's been since the All-Star break."

Frazier keeps boosting his National League Rookie of the Year consideration. He's hit safely in seven of his last eight games and is batting .517 (15-for-29) over that stretch.

There were two outs in the fourth when Arroyo drove a double to center field and scored on Zack Cozart's lined double into left field. Drew Stubbs added another run with his RBI triple to the right-field wall.

"That was a big five-run inning for us, especially being down, 3-1, and they just had two runs on us," Frazier said.

Wood, who was traded by the Reds to the Cubs in the January deal that brought in Sean Marshall, held his former club to one run and five hits over seven innings in his previous start Aug. 11 in a no-decision at Wrigley Field. This time, he gave up seven runs over five innings.

"It's a really tough team," Wood said. "Good guys over there. I know most of them, and I know they're a good group. They're in first place."

In the fifth, Bruce came through with a solo homer to right field, giving him a team leading 25 and his fourth in his last five games. After that, Arroyo could pitch comfortably.

"Some of the crazy plays that happened like that knuckler to Brandon really hurt me because it just made me pitch a lot harder and a lot more pitches than I wanted to, which got me out of the game earlier than I would have liked," Arroyo said. "I did settle down and we scored some runs, which allowed me to put away the frustration from the inning before."

The Reds, which have won five of their last six games and own a six-game lead in the NL Central, have a chance to keep fattening their record vs. struggling teams. They took two of three from a Mets club that is now 9-23 since the break and have a four-game series vs. the 46-71 Cubs, followed by four games at 54-65 Philadelphia.

"Early on this year, it was hard for us to come back from deficits and score some runs," Arroyo said. "Lately, we've been getting some big hits when we needed them. When you win ballgames, it kind of frees your mind up a little bit."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.