SAN FRANCISCO -- With his flowing blonde mane, awkward stiff-legged delivery and the Key West cool he exhibits, Bronson Arroyo has been anything but the prototypical imposing stopper on the mound in his 13-year big league career.And yet, with Cincinnati wanting, er, needing a quality start to give its bullpen a much-needed breather after going through six pitchers in the series opener, there was the crafty Arroyo, hitting his spots, painting the edge of the plate and straight baffling the Giants. The right-hander threw seven innings of shutout ball and surrendered only one hit and one walk in a 9-0 victory to hand the Reds a two games to none lead in this best-of-five National League Division Series.RELATED: Baggs Instant Replay: Reds embarrass lifeless Giants
Best of all, at least from Cincinnati's perspective, Reds manager Dusty Baker had an inkling Arroyo would thrive at AT&T Park."He flirted with a nohitter a couple of starts ago," Baker said. "He's been throwing the ball well, and I just thought him and this forgiving ballpark would be right for him, even though I don't think he had won a game here."Indeed, Arroyo entered the day 0-4 on the shores of McCovey Cove and had not beaten the Giants at all since Aug. 31, 2008."You want to get deep in the ballgame but a playoff atmosphere, it's impossible to control everything that's going on," Arroyo said. "You go out there (with) a mindset of trying to get into the seventh inning possibly, and that doesn't happen a whole lotif you look around at both leagues you will see a lot of starting pitchers that have to bow out after 5 23 (innings)."You're burning more energy, there is so much more going on, so it's hard to take that responsibility on your shoulders and say, 'I'm going to get deep in the ballgame'. You hope you do.I threw enough pitches in the middle of the game where they had swung early on and saved me some pitches that gave me an opportunity to do that."Save some pitches? A 3-and-2 backdoor breaking pitch that froze Gregor Blanco for a strikeout to lead off the third inning saved Arroyo some pitches.
"It set a nice tone for us because you don't always get those pitches," he said, with a figurative tip of his cap to homeplate umpire Brian O'Nora."You're trying to pitch to such a small sliver of the outer half of the plate, and if you can do that it builds confidence."And confident he looked, building on the postseason experience he had in 2004 with the Boston Red Sox, the first, and thus far, only MLB team to rally from an 0-3 deficit in a playoff series to win a series."He was great," Baker said. "He had his breaking ball working, his fastball, he located it wellonce we got those early runs, he seemed to get tougher."Stingier, too.The Giants stung the ball early, but right at the Reds fielders. Arroyo was perfect through 4 23 innings, before Brandon Belt singled to right-center. The only other Giant to reach base off him was Buster Posey, who walked with two out in the seventh.
But the thought of a no-no or even a Perfect Game in the postseason seems a ludicrous though.
"A nohitter in this type of environment is almost impossible to do and it's something you're not thinking about," he said. "The win for the ballclub is the nirvana. There is nothing else to think about. If something else happens crazy like that, then it's icing on the cake."But to get through the fifth inning without having to pitch from the stretch but one time was really big.It allows you to get in your groove. You're not wasting a lot of energy because when guys are on base you're thinking about shutting the running game down. All kinds of things come into play there that don't have to if no one is on base.So to make it through the first five innings without having to deal with a base runner was big."In fact, had the Reds not been up so long in the eighth, when they batted around and added five runs, Arroyo probably would have come stayed in the game. After all, he himself batted in that Reds conga line."But we might have to pitch him on threedays rest, too," Baker said. "So at that period of time we had to save him for later.Plus, that long inning, we scored a lot of runs.About time to give some of the other guys a break."Arroyo, though, would offer no such quarter to the Giants. Not on this night.