Bronson Arroyo may not strike any fear into opponents or fans when he’s on the mound. He doesn’t rank as a superstar in this league. But he does win games. And that is No. 1 in the pitching job description after all. Arroyo won 15 games in each of the past two seasons, while eating up innings for a frustrating Reds club. Today, Arroyo did more of the same, going eight innings and giving up only one run in a 2-1 win for Cincinnati. The workmanlike performance gave the Reds its first win of the season and avoided the sweep. And it wasn’t just on the mound that Arroyo did some damage.
He drove in the Reds first run of the ball game on a single in the fifth. It was all the more painful because it came with two outs and two strikes on the pitcher. In that situation, Brad Penny has to close the deal and head to the dugout with zeros still on the board. Unfortunately for Penny, that was the lone mistake he made today.
Besides the Arroyo single, Penny was outstanding. He pitched seven innings, scattered six hits, and gave up that run. Penny was very effective today because he kept the ball down — always a good thing for pitchers. He rolled 13 groundouts, including two double plays in key spots. If he can pitch with that confidence and focus all season, he’s in for a special season in St. Louis. Penny should only get better as the season goes on as he keeps learning new things even at this stage in his career. According to Derrick Goold, he is working on a two-seamer for his arsenal. I guess you can never have too much knowledge out on the mound.
Even after a near flawless performance, Penny didn’t get the win and neither did the Cardinals. The pitcher’s duel went into the ninth inning knotted at one. The Cards tied it up in the seventh with Matt Holliday’s first home run of the season. After failing to break things open in the top half of the ninth, St. Louis sent Trever Miller to the mound. He got the first out and then handed the ball off to Jason Motte. Motte threw six straight fastballs to Jonny Gomes. The seventh never came because the sixth was flying into the seats of Great American Ball Park. Gomes rounded the bases and the Reds walked off the field with the win.
The scary thoughts surrounding the bullpen from Cardinals fans in the previous two games finally manifested into a small nightmare Thursday. While St. Louis was comfortably ahead in the first two, today’s game was too close. Any error was going to be costly. Motte’s mistake proved to be the difference and the first loss of the season. His mistake is even bigger because he threw six straight fastballs. In this league, you can’t throw that many fastballs and get away with it. You just can’t. And on top of that, he threw it right into Gomes’ wheelhouse, begging to be drilled. He needs to get another pitch just to keep hitters off balance. Everyone in the MLB can hit the fastball easily and it’s not like Motte is pumping it in at 100 MPH.
The fear of the bullpen will continue to swirl until they come through for this team. It will certainly be interesting — or scary — to watch the final innings until they get the problem fixed.
After today, Cards nation may be having nightmares about Bronson Arroyo too.