Thursday's Late Game

Arroyo's Pitching, Gomes's Hitting Send Reds Past Nationals, 7-0

That's one: Cincinnati's Jonny Gomes is congratulated by Adam Rosales and Laynce Nix after his two-run home run off Nationals starter Collin Balester.
That's one: Cincinnati's Jonny Gomes is congratulated by Adam Rosales and Laynce Nix after his two-run home run off Nationals starter Collin Balester. (By David Kohl -- Associated Press)
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By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 15, 2009

CINCINNATI, Aug. 13 -- Reprinted from yesterday's late editions

Hours before he took the mound on Thursday for a start against the Washington Nationals, Bronson Arroyo's image greeted half the bleary-eyed business travelers in America. There he was, front page of USA Today -- his admissions about supplement use bannered atop a cover story that smacked just about every door at every Courtyard hotel.

Arroyo's unfiltered interview defined him, depending on your viewpoint, as a torchbearer for honesty, a poor judge of chemical hazards or, at minimum, somebody who enjoys his daily fix of Korean ginseng. Either way, the interview guaranteed at least one thing: The right-hander's start against the Nationals would attract a focused attention that doesn't typically follow a pitcher with a 10-11 record and a 5.04 ERA.

Say this for Arroyo: He knows how to follow a story with a show. On the same day the baseball world learned about how Arroyo relies daily on 10 to 12 products, some not approved by Major League Baseball, the Cincinnati veteran positively unenhanced the performance of the Washington Nationals, shutting them out on two hits in his best game of the season. Washington, a 7-0 loser at Great American Ball Park, fell for the third consecutive time on a night when Jonny Gomes paced the Cincinnati offense, swatting three home runs.

The Nationals were the perfect foils, again, for whatever the opposition fancied. They have been outscored 21-3 on this trip.

"We weren't going to beat Arroyo tonight the way he threw," interim manager Jim Riggleman said.

For all the value of caffeine and chemistry, Arroyo's start benefited from a far deeper list of sources. First of all, the 32-year-old had his very best stuff, walking just one, keeping hitters off balance with a slow-as-syrup curveball and an on-point fastball.

Second of all, he got help. Lots of it. The Reds hit four home runs, including three from the No. 6 hitter Gomes, a right fielder who began the night averaging a blast every 14.7 at-bats. Each of Gomes's homers on this night came with two strikes. The first, which opened Cincinnati's 2-0 lead, soared into the second deck in left. The final one, off Jason Bergmann, shuttled some 410 feet beyond the center field wall. Washington starter Collin Balester -- who gave up three homers, two to Gomes -- was done after five innings, allowing five earned runs.

It was Arroyo, though, who dictated the pace of this game. He cruised through the first inning on 10 pitches. Through three innings, he had faced the minimum, helped by an Elijah Dukes double play. His pace ensured he would last into the later innings.

Arroyo's durability is often regarded as his best attribute. Since 2006, he leads baseball in games started. Does it have something to do with the ways he cares for himself? Perhaps. Either way, Arroyo gave USA Today at least one saucy comment about his supplements: "It might be dangerous," he said, "but so is drinking and driving. And how many of us do it at least once a year? Pretty much everybody."

When Washington's players spilled into the clubhouse after the game, a copy of Thursday's USA Today was unfurled on a coffee table. Several Nationals had read the story.

"He's certainly entitled to his opinion, and anyone who wants to listen -- sure. You know me, I speak my mind. But I'm not him, and I try to choose my words a little more carefully," Bergmann said. "Like I said, that whole drug thing doesn't pertain to me at all, so it doesn't matter to me at all. I've never sniffed a drug or seen it in person. Ironically, I got drug-tested today."

Asked about his reaction to Arroyo's statements, first baseman Adam Dunn, a former Cincinnati teammate, said: "I don't know. What are your reactions? You don't care? See, we're on the same page. I could care less what Bronson takes. He took the right pills tonight."

By the time Gomes delivered his third homer of the night, becoming the 24th Reds player to achieve such an accomplishment, the Reds had a 6-0 lead.

And Arroyo simply needed to finish it off.

In the ninth, with a sparse crowd clapping in appreciation, Arroyo again retired the side in order, finishing off the night as left fielder Laynce Nix made a running catch against the left field wall, robbing Ryan Zimmerman. Arroyo had thrown just 103 pitches.

"It seemed like he threw pitches from about three or four different arm angles, different speeds," Riggleman said. "It seemed like we were hitting the ball off of the end of the bat all day, and that's a testament to what he was able to do. We just couldn't square him up."

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