Bruce's power backs Arroyo's gem
Slugger homers twice; righty tosses five-hitter vs. Astros
CINCINNATI -- In his brief tenure in the Majors, right fielder Jay Bruce has taken May 27 and made it his own.Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of Bruce's first call up to the Reds and like his debut, he made it a big one. The 23-year-old went 3-for-4 with two homers, a triple and four RBIs. Add in Bronson Arroyo's 92-pitch complete game, and the Reds enjoyed a smooth 6-1 win over the Astros for a three-game series sweep. The contest lasted just two hours, eight minutes -- Cincinnati's quickest game of the year -- and it was a welcomed change after two rain-filled days. "Bronson was the story tonight. So was Jay Bruce," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "It was quick game. We haven't had a game that quick in a long time." Arroyo gave up five hits -- four singles and a double -- with one walk and three strikeouts. He had only 79 pitches through eight innings, making it a foregone conclusion that the Reds' bullpen door would remain closed. It was Arroyo's first complete game of the season. In his previous start, Arroyo beat the Indians with an eight-inning performance. Although his overall ERA is 5.12, the right-hander is 7-3 and has gotten a decision in all 10 of his starts. "Sometimes you get on these rolls," Arroyo said. "Take what you can get when you can get it, because there will be a stretch where I am standing here telling you guys why I can't get anybody out. You try to rack up these wins as early and often as you can." Houston, which has now lost seven straight, took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when leadoff man Michael Bourn walked, stole second base and eventually scored from third base on a Lance Berkman sacrifice fly. "The whole game just went smooth," said Arroyo, who now has seven career complete games. "I gave up one in the first, and we came right back and tied it up. I felt strong and was hoping we'd do what we did -- put a few runs on the board and give me a chance." After that, it was all Reds, who have won four in a row and six of their past eight. They finished their nine-game homestand 6-3 and improved to 13-12 at home this season. Next up is a seven-game road trip that includes visits to the two teams just ahead in the National League Central -- the second-place Brewers and first-place Cardinals, who are just 1 1/2 games up on Cincinnati. "We came in here and took care of business," Bruce said. "We'll go on the road on a roll with some momentum. We plan on coming back [home] in first place." In the bottom of the first, Jerry Hairston Jr. hit a solo homer to left field off Astros starter Felipe Paulino (2-3) to tie the game. In the third with two outs, Willy Taveras created a run when he reached on a bunt and went to third base on catcher Humberto Quintero's throwing error. Taveras scored on Hairston's RBI chopped single through the left side. With one out in the fourth, Bruce hit a Paulino first pitch into the right-field seats for a solo homer. Another first-pitch was launched to right-center field by Bruce in the sixth for a two-run shot -- his team-high 14th homer -- and a four-run Reds lead. In the eighth, Bruce notched his fourth RBI of the night when his RBI triple into the right-field corner scored Laynce Nix. On May 27, 2008, in his debut vs. the Pirates, Bruce was 3-for-3 with a double and two RBIs. He went on to bat .591 over his first six big league games. On Monday, Bruce was given the day off vs. Houston after an 0-for-13 skid dipped his average to .228. After two more hitless at-bats on Tuesday, he singled off Roy Oswalt in his third plate appearance. "I just told him it was a mental day off," Baker said. "You could see his concentration and focus weren't the same. Especially a day off at the ballpark, you get to see guys hit, focus and you're still in the game. A day off away from the ballpark, you get your rest but you don't get reflect on what you see on the baseball field." "I get antsy and don't know what to do with myself with the day off," Bruce said. "I told Dusty, 'I've never asked for a day off, ever.' I expect to play every day. But I appreciated it, and mentally, it was probably good." Bruce is hitting only .241 but has 29 RBIs, which is third highest on the team. He is on pace to slug 49 homers on a team that came into the season wondering how it would replace Adam Dunn's 40-homer power in the lineup. "I'm not worrying about anything, not the average," Bruce said. "That goes up and down, but run production doesn't. I try to take good at-bats and help the team win."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.