Last week against the Chicago Cubs , the Cincinnati Reds couldn't get much going against former teammate Travis Wood , who admitted having some extra motivation in facing his old club for the first time.
Cincinnati could be in for more of the same when Wood returns to Great American Ball Park in the opener of a four-game series Friday night.
The NL Central-leading Reds (71-47) took three of four in Chicago last week, with Ryan Ludwick and Todd Frazier leading the way. Ludwick finished 6 for 16 with two homers, two doubles, six RBIs and five runs, while Frazier hit .600 with a homer, two doubles and six RBIs.
Both came up big in Saturday's 4-2 win, a game featuring the same pitching matchup as Friday - Wood (4-8, 4.52 ERA) against Bronson Arroyo (8-7, 3.95).
Wood, who spent his first two seasons with the Reds before being traded in December, held Cincinnati to five hits and matched a career high with eight strikeouts over seven innings. The only run he allowed came on Frazier's RBI single in the fourth.
"That was as impressive an outing as he's had all year," manager Dale Sveum told the Cubs' official website.
Wood departed with a 2-1 lead, but the Reds scored three times in the eighth as Ludwick delivered the go-ahead two-run double. Cincinnati's rally made a winner out of Arroyo, who allowed two runs and five hits in eight innings.
Arroyo improved to 5-3 with a 2.31 ERA in his last 11 starts against the Cubs (46-70), but all of those defeats came in his last three matchups in Cincinnati. The right-hander has a 4.19 ERA in those games, surrendering two homers each time, and he has a 6.60 ERA in three home starts since the All-Star break.
Despite Arroyo's home struggles, the rest of the team is excelling there. The Reds are a major league-best 38-21 at home and have won 12 of the last 16 meetings with the Cubs in Cincinnati.
Ludwick, who has a season-high eight-game hitting streak, is batting .357 with four homers, three doubles and 15 RBIs in his last 11 home games. He hit his 23rd homer Thursday against New York as the Reds lost 8-4 to snap a five-game winning streak.
Cincinnati, which had its lead over Pittsburgh cut to six games, committed three errors leading to three unearned runs.
"Over a 162-game season, you're going to have games like this, but the way we'd been playing lately, it's odd," shortstop Zack Cozart said.
The Cubs arrive in Cincinnati after beating Houston 7-2 on Wednesday to take two of three from the majors' worst team. David DeJesus had a pair of homers and finished with four hits, while Starlin Castro had three hits - including his 12th homer - for the Cubs, who had lost 11 of 12 prior to facing the Astros.
Castro is 3 for 17 against Arroyo, while DeJesus is 3 for 15.
Although Wood is 0-5 since the All-Star break, he is showing improvement. The left-hander has a 2.50 ERA with one homer allowed in three starts this month after posting a 12.64 ERA with nine home runs served up in his previous three.
"As a whole, I've progressed," Wood said. "I've had some good games and some bad games. That's baseball."
|July 28, 2012||Matt Garza||15-Day DL||Stress reaction, right elbow|
|July 21, 2012||Matt Garza||Day-to-Day||Left game - right triceps cramp|
|June 16, 2012||Ryan Dempster||15-Day DL||Right lat tightness|
|June 13, 2012||Ian Stewart||60-Day DL||Left wrist surgery|
|June 02, 2012||Blake Parker||60-Day DL||Stress reaction in right elbow|
|May 19, 2012||Welington Castillo||15-Day DL||Sprained right knee|
|August 01, 2012||Devin Mesoraco||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|August 01, 2012||Wilson Valdez||Day-to-Day||Left game - stiff neck|
|August 01, 2012||Devin Mesoraco||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|July 31, 2012||Brandon Phillips||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left calf|
|July 31, 2012||Bill Bray||15-Day DL||Lumbar muscle strain|
|July 16, 2012||Joey Votto||Day-to-Day||Torn meniscus, left knee - out 3-4 weeks|
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Bronson Arroyo hasn't seen many good second halves in his seven seasons with the Cincinnati Reds , so the veteran right-hander is trying to enjoy this one as much as he can.
Arroyo shook off a shaky start, Todd Frazier hit a two-run home run and Ryan Ludwick and Jay Bruce added solo shots as the Reds beat the Chicago Cubs 7-3 in the opener of a four-game weekend series on Friday night.
Cincinnati, coming off a loss to the New York Mets on Thursday that snapped a five-game winning streak, began the day leading the NL Central by six games and improved to a major league-best 25-9 since the All-Star break.
"Usually, we've had big slides in the second half, and that's taken the wind out of our sails," Arroyo said. "This year, we feel like the ball's always rolling in your direction."
Manager Dusty Baker liked knowing the Reds would at least pick up ground on one of their two closest pursuers with second-place Pittsburgh playing at third-place St. Louis.
"Any time you win, it's good, but with the Pirates playing the Cardinals, you know you're going to pick up ground on somebody," he said.
Arroyo (9-7) has been a big part of the surge, improving to 5-1 in his last six starts. He gave up nine hits and three runs with three walks, three strikeouts and a wild pitch in 6 1-3 innings.
Jose Arredondo , Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman combined to pitch scoreless relief the rest of the way.
The Reds had six extra-base hits in five innings against streaky former teammate Travis Wood (4-9), who has lost his last six decisions after winning four straight starts.
Luis Valbuena led off the second with his fourth homer of the season and first since June 29 against Houston. His 418-foot fly into the right-center field seats gave Chicago a 1-0 lead.
The Reds tied it in the bottom of the inning when Frazier scored from second on Wood's error as he tried to handle first baseman Anthony Rizzo 's throw on Ryan Hanigan 's grounder.
Chicago capitalized on another Reds fielding misplay to take a 3-1 lead in the fourth. After Castro led off with a single and Valbuena flied out, Brett Jackson hit a line drive to second baseman Brandon Phillips that got away from him after he appeared to be distracted by the passing Castro.
Castro went to third on what was ruled a single and scored on a wild pitch to Steve Clevenger , who then walked. Wood drove Jackson in from second with a single to center for the pitcher's first RBI of the season.
The Reds then got five runs and six hits in the bottom half of the inning, starting with Ludwick's 23rd homer of the season, a 425-foot drive into the left field seats on Wood's first pitch of the inning. Wood hit Bruce with a pitch, and Frazier gave the Reds a 4-3 lead by hitting a 2-2 pitch 419 feet into the left field seats for his 16th homer of the season.
"I couldn't really tell you what was going on," Frazier said. "He throws that cutter a lot. I was sitting on it. That was a big five-run inning for us."
Cincinnati added two runs with two outs on doubles by Arroyo and Zack Cozart and a triple by Drew Stubbs .
"It didn't look good for a while, but we answered back when they scored," Baker said. "We were on (Wood) pretty good in that inning."
Wood allowed more runs and hits in that inning than the five hits and one run he allowed in seven innings against Cincinnati last Sunday in Chicago.
"The doors fell off," he said. "We took a game plan out there, and I didn't make adjustments soon enough."
Friday's Wood obviously wasn't the same as last Sunday's, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.
"He probably spent everything he had in that last outing," Sveum said. "He velocity was down, and his pitches were flat. He went into a gunfight with a knife."
Bruce hit Wood's 0-1 pitch 411 feet into the right-field seats with one out in the fifth for his 25th homer of the season.
The streaky Wood, traded with two other players by Cincinnati to Chicago for pitcher Sean Marshall during the offseason, lasted five innings, getting roughed up for nine hits and seven runs - six earned - with three strikeouts.
NOTES: RHP Todd Redmond is expected to be recalled from Triple-A Louisville on Saturday to start the second game for the Reds in their split doubleheader against the Cubs. Redmond, acquired from Atlanta for INF Paul Janish on July 14, has been recalled three times by two teams this season, but he's still waiting to make his major league debut. ... The Cubs are expected to recall LHP Brooks Raley from Triple-A Iowa to face Redmond. ... Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan flipped the coin to determine who would serve first for Friday's Western & Southern Open tennis quarterfinal match between Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber in suburban Cincinnati.