CINCINNATI -- As someone who had often faced the likes of flamethrowers Nolan Ryan and J.R. Richard, Reds manager Dusty Baker was the right guy to impart wisdom on his hitters before they faced Tigers ace Justin Verlander for the first time.
Respect him, just don't be in awe of him. The Reds responded properly and gave Verlander a handful for six innings. Instead, it was some more familiar issues that foiled Cincinnati during a 3-2 defeat to the Tigers -- leaving runners stranded and ex-division foe Prince Fielder who hit the tiebreaking single in the eighth inning.
"We made him work," Reds right fielder Jay Bruce said of Verlander, the 2011 American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner. "We put him on the ropes a couple of times. We couldn't deliver that knockout. He made pitches when he needed to. We couldn't pull it out. We had chances and we didn't capitalize on [them], me in particular a couple of times."
Over their last three games, including two losses, the Reds have stranded 28 runners on base. They were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position on Saturday and are batting .228 as a team in that situation for the season.
Before a sellout of 43,443 fans, the largest non-Opening Day crowd in regular-season history at Great American Ball Park, Reds starter Bronson Arroyo matched up well vs. Verlander with seven innings of solid work.
Arroyo retired 12 of his first 14 batters, with the only blemishes being a pair of solo homers. With two outs in the second, an unlikely long ball came from Ramon Santiago when he put a 2-1 pitch into the right-field seats for his second homer of the season. In the fourth inning, also with two outs, Fielder lifted a first-pitch offering for a homer to right field for a 2-0 Detroit lead.
"I'll take a 2-2 tie against Verlander any day," said Arroyo, who allowed five hits with no walks and four strikeouts. "I gave up two homers and other than that, I kept them pretty quiet. I didn't have to pitch from the stretch a lot, I had pretty good stuff."
The Reds didn't have much in the early innings vs. Verlander but really bore down and battled him in a 30-pitch fourth inning. A runner was on first when Joey Votto flied to left field, where Delmon Young had trouble seeing the ball in the sun. The ball skipped off Young's glove and Votto reached second base on the play that was generously ruled a double.
With one out, Verlander showed the Reds how easily he could find increased velocity. After his pitches were mainly in the low-to-mid 90s, Bruce faced four straight 100-mph fastballs and struck out.
"The guy can pitch," Baker said. "He's not MVP-Cy Young for nothing. You see whenever he got into trouble, he dialed it up to 100. He'd be 92-93 then reach back. That's what the great ones do. They always have something left. When you can add 7-8 mph upon command, it shows what you really have inside."
But Verlander walked Ryan Ludwick on four pitches to open the door. After getting two pitches of 100 and 101 mph, rookie Todd Frazier punched another 101-mph pitch for a game-tying, two-run single to right field.
"His stuff is really good, but when you're up there you've got to have that confidence and positivity in yourself that you're going to get the job done," Frazier said. "I just went about that and got a little fired up and understood that's just another pitcher."
Cincinnati applied more two-out pressure in the fifth as Brandon Phillips' 12-pitch walk loaded the bases.
"That was classic," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of Phillips' plate appearance.
The runners were left stranded when Bruce struck out on Verlander's 113th pitch of the game. He was done after six innings, having allowed two runs and six hits with three walks and nine strikeouts on 127 pitches.
In the seventh against Tigers reliever Brayan Villarreal, the Reds left runners on the corners with two outs. Detroit's bullpen retired the final seven in a row.
Arroyo was gassed after 87 pitches and gave way to lefty reliever Sean Marshall for the eighth. Marshall, who had not allowed a hit over his previous 10 appearances since moving from closer to a setup role, notched two quick groundouts in the eighth. Brennan Boesch then skied a double off of the wall in center field. Miguel Cabrera was intentionally walked so that Marshall could duel the left-handed Fielder.
Entering the at-bat, Marshall was holding lefty hitters to a .136 average and had limited Fielder to 5-for-23 (.217) with 10 strikeouts. Fielder delivered with a lined RBI single into center field.
"[Marshall has] been lights out against lefties," Baker said. "He got a curveball up on Boesch and then I had to make a decision at the time. I certainly didn't want him to face Cabrera. He had quite a bit of success against Prince. He got a slider over the heart of the plate and Prince got a base hit. That was the ballgame."