Strong pitching has sparked the Cincinnati Reds during their surge to the top of the NL Central.
With the way Bronson Arroyo threw in his last outing coupled with the Arizona Diamondbacks' sudden struggles at the plate, the Reds could be primed for a seventh straight victory in the opener of a four-game set Monday night at Great American Ball Park.
Cincinnati (50-38) moved a season-high 12 games over .500 and took over sole possession of first place in the Central after Sunday's 4-2 win over St. Louis. Scott Rolen's tiebreaking bases-loaded single with two outs in the eighth inning lifted the Reds to their sixth straight win, matching their longest streak of the season.
Starting in place of Johnny Cueto (blister), Homer Bailey did his best impression of a staff ace, yielding two runs over eight innings. Cincinnati, which hasn't won seven in a row since Aug. 13-20, 2010, has been receiving a lot of strong performances lately from its pitchers, who have a 1.80 ERA during the winning streak.
Arroyo (4-5, 3.73 ERA) began the streak July 6 by tossing a three-hitter in a 6-0 victory at San Diego. The right-hander, who has yielded three runs or fewer in five of his last six starts, struck out eight Padres while walking one, and acknowledged duplicating that gem won't be easy.
"You only get one of those games like that every couple of years where everything is just going your way," he told the Reds' official website.
Arroyo could fare quite well again, though, given the way Arizona's offense looked over the weekend while getting swept by the Chicago Cubs in a three-game set.
The Diamondbacks (42-46) plated one run in each game at Wrigley Field, and finished the series 1 for 16 with runners in scoring position.
"We expect ourselves to be better,'' first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said after Sunday's 3-1 loss. "We're not going to win a ton of games scoring one run.''
Justin Upton, the subject of trade rumors, went hitless in 10 at-bats during the Cubs series and could be in for another long night Monday. He is hitting .143 with eight strikeouts in 21 career at-bats against Arroyo, who is 3-1 with a 2.45 ERA in his last four starts against the Diamondbacks.
"When you're not hitting, it magnifies things,'' Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said.
While Gibson would like to see his offense break out, he also hopes starter Wade Miley (9-5, 3.04) can get back on track after a couple of subpar showings.
Arizona's lone All-Star, Miley posted a 10.45 ERA in losing his final two starts before the break after going 3-1 with a 1.17 ERA in his previous four outings. He faced two batters in Tuesday's All-Star game, and Gibson was originally planning to start him during the Cubs series before deciding some extra time would likely benefit his rookie left-hander.
"I feel good now, though, I'm fine," Miley told the Diamondbacks' official website." I just want to get back to normal baseball, rather than (the All-Star festivities). It was kind of crazy. I haven't seen anything like that before."
He also hasn't seen the Reds, a team featuring the hot-hitting Brandon Phillips and always dangerous Joey Votto.
Phillips is batting .529 with five runs scored in his last four games. Votto, who hit his major league-leading 36th double Sunday, is hitting .422 in 17 games versus Arizona since 2009.
These teams haven't met since April of last season, when the Diamondbacks took two of three in Cincinnati.