If ever there was a doubt that Bronson Arroyo is not a strong-willed, all-for-the-team guy — and who ever doubted him? — he put the final stamp on it Sunday afternoon.
The Cincinnati Reds’ bean pole pitcher showed up at PNC Park Sunday morning with an unwanted companion, a flu bug.
But he took the baseball and wobbled through five innings, enough to get his 14th win and help the Reds to an important victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates, 11-3.
And it helped immensely that the Reds scored five runs in the first inning, before Arroyo had to throw his first pitch, highlighted by Jay Bruce’s three-run double.
From there the Reds just kept adding on to bury the Pirates and move back into a second-place tie with the team they beat two of three over this weekend.
Arroyo gave up three runs and five hits, walked two and struck out three.
He nearly didn’t make it through the fifth, trying to protect a 7-1 lead.
He gave up a leadoff home run to pinch-hitter Travis Snider, hit Jose Tabata with a pitch and gave up a run-scoring double to Neil Walker.
Suddenly it was 7-2 and the Pirates had two on and nobody out as Alfredo Simon began warming up in the bullpen.
Arroyo shrugged it off and got Andrew McCutchen to pop up — always an easy out for Arroyo. McCutchen is 1-for-25 in his career against Arroyo.
McCutchen, in fact, was hitless in the three games and when it was mentioned to Reds manager Dusty Baker, he scowled and said, “I wish you hadn’t pointed that out. We have three more games with them and he is one of the best hitters in the game.”
Said Arroyo, “I sure didn’t have good stuff but I was able to pound the zone and the guys put five on the board in the first and that made it easier. I threw a lot pitches early, too (56 pitches in the first two innings).”
Another run scored on fly by Justin Morneau to make it 7-3, but Arroyo finished his day by getting Marlon Byrd on a deep fly to right.
From there the bullpen pitched a hitless shutout for four innings in the personage of Alfredo Simon. Manny Parra and Logan Ondrusek.
“Bronson got us deep into the game and he got the win and we got the win,” said Baker. “It got hairy in the middle innings, but we played some add-on and got into their bullpen early. We got those early runs and most of the time when we score first we win.”
And it was another big day for Billy Hamilton, who started in center field and batted leadoff. He had three hits — a bunt, an infield hit and a double. And, of course, he stole two bases and is 12-for-12 during his brief time in the majors.
“I feel like there is no catcher who can throw me out,” said Hamilton. “Of course, I have been thrown out (in the minors but not in the majors), but I have the confidence that I can steal every base.”
The Pirates started Jeff Locke and he lasted exactly one inning.
After Hamilton grounded out to start the game, the Reds batted around. Chris Heisey doubled and Locke walked both Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips, batting fourth on this day.
Bruce then cleared the bases with a double to left center for a quick 3-0 lead. Todd Frazier, who didn’t start Saturday’s game, drove his 18th home run over the center field wall for a 5-0 lead.
Then it was add-on time and the Reds scored two more in the second, an inning that began with Hamilton bunting for a hit. Then he stole second and scored on Heisey’s single. Votto singled and Phillips hit a sacrifice fly for a 7-0 lead.
The Reds scored three in the eighth after they had two outs and nobody on base. Again it was started by Hamilton, with a double to center. Heisey singled home Hamilton and Votto doubled home Heisey for a 10-3 lead.
For final emphasis the Reds scored again in the ninth on Zach Cozart’s double and Derrick Robinson’s single.
Votto’s run-scoring double was his 30th, the sixth consecutive season he has hit 30 or more doubles. The only other Cincinnati Reds player to do that was Pete Rose.