By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
08/06/10 6:59 PM ET
CHICAGO -- A six-game road trip against non-contenders in Pittsburgh and Chicago has not created a drifting eye from the Reds before next week's scheduled showdown vs. the Cardinals.
The Reds' noses were fixed firmly to the grindstone on Friday during a 3-0 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field, where there was a little bit of offense, a whole lot of pitching from Bronson Arroyo and plenty of defense behind him. The win ensured that Cincinnati would stay in first place in the National League Central after bringing a half-game lead over the Cardinals into the afternoon.
"It's easy to stay in the moment when you don't feel you're blowing teams out," said Arroyo, who pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing five hits and one walk while striking out seven for his 12th victory.
At 62-48, the Reds are a season-high 14 games over .500 after winning five of their past six games and seven of nine, including 4-1 on the road trip. They will meet St. Louis for a three-game series beginning on Monday at Great American Ball Park.
"I can't put too much importance on St. Louis because they're not here yet," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "You have to win games now before we get there. Hopefully we can add a [win] or two before they get to town."
Cubs starter Tom Gorzelanny (6-6) pitched well for seven innings and essentially made one mistake. Following Jay Bruce's leadoff walk in the top of the second inning, Ryan Hanigan hit an 0-1 fastball for a two-run home run to left-center field and a 2-0 Reds lead.
There were two outs in the seventh inning when Brandon Phillips' rolling single through the left side scored Paul Janish from second base with an insurance run.
Arroyo (12-6) retired 11 of the first 12 batters and held Chicago hitless until Aramis Ramirez's infield single with two outs in the fourth. Just before that hit, great defense by Scott Rolen took away two hits. Rolen made a diving stop to his right on Starlin Castro's sharp grounder and threw him out from his knees.
"That inning could have blown up on me if he doesn't make that play," Arroyo said of Rolen, who also ran in on a tough grounder to throw out Derrek Lee for the second out.
Marlon Byrd followed Ramirez with a single, but Arroyo escaped with a fielder's-choice groundout by Kosuke Fukudome. A much tougher jam for Arroyo came in the fifth inning. Following back-to-back Cubs singles, his wild pitch to a bunting Gorzelanny put runners on second and third base with no outs.
"I was trying to take a deep breath," Arroyo said. "I needed a strikeout against the pitcher, first and foremost."
Arroyo did get the strikeout on Gorzelanny and followed by getting Tyler Colvin to pop out to the shortstop. After running a full count to Castro, Arroyo worked out of the mess with a nasty 75-mph curveball for a swinging strike three while the dangerous Lee waited on deck.
"That was the ballgame in itself," Arroyo said. "I had good stuff for four innings and kind of cruised through. Running the bases hard a couple of times and [Gorzelanny] having fast innings a couple of times in between, I didn't get a lot of rest. I got a pinch tired and started missing spots with my fastball. I was getting into some jams."
The Cubs got Kosuke Fukudome's leadoff single in the seventh, but he was erased in a double play when he was caught stealing as Blake DeWitt struck out. A diving catch by Jonny Gomes in left field took a hit away from Geovanny Soto. Arroyo was worn down after 105 pitches on a muggy day and gave way to Arthur Rhodes for the eighth inning. Over his last three starts, Arroyo is 2-1 with a 1.23 ERA; he has posted a 3.83 ERA in 23 starts overall.
"[Arroyo] had it going on today," Baker said. "He's had it going on most days. He's 'Steady Eddie.' He's about as steady and dependable as any pitcher you'll find."
In two starts vs. the Cubs this season, both at Wrigley Field, Arroyo has worked 13 scoreless innings.
"He was throwing all those pitches and hitting his spots," Byrd said. "When a guy's doing that and has a pedigree of knowing how to pitch -- he's one of the big-game guys."
Rhodes worked a 1-2-3 eighth before Francisco Cordero survived a two-walk ninth to notch his 30th save.
"Success breeds confidence," Baker said. "These guys come to play hard every day. On most days, they play pretty smart. The main thing is we're winning different ways. One day we'll get a big offensive output. The next day, we have outstanding pitching. To win, you have to have that combination of both."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.