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08/09/08 11:11 PM ET

Arroyo outdueled in fifth straight loss

Reds drop game, series to Astros in spite of good pitching

CINCINNATI -- The night didn't start well for Bronson Arroyo.

Before Arroyo could retire a batter, he found himself facing Astros slugger Carlos Lee with the bases loaded. No pitcher wants that. Surely, manager Dusty Baker didn't want it, not the way his Reds have been struggling.

Lee singled in a run, but Arroyo wiggled out of the inning with just that one run.

"The first inning could've exploded into a disaster," Arroyo said. "I got out of that with one run, which is where I needed to be."

But one run put the Reds somewhere that Baker didn't want them to be -- trailing early. And as in past games, they were unable to erase the deficit they were in. The Reds went on to lose Saturday night to the Astros, 3-1.

"How much more can you say when you're losing like this," said Baker, whose team has lost a season-high five games in a row. "You can only come up with so many things after a while. But one run isn't going to get it done unless you shut them out. I haven't seen one of those in a long time."

Baker could have used a shutout against the Astros.

Houston's starter, right-hander Brian Moehler, was holding the Reds in check. Moehler held tightly to that 1-0 lead that Lee had given him in the first as he plowed through the Reds lineup inning after inning.

"The main thing is, he threw strikes," Baker said.

Moehler was also efficient, which was no small point. He threw half as many pitches as Arroyo did over the first five innings, and when the Astros pushed across a second run in the fifth on Moehler's double, Kaz Matsui's sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch, Arroyo found himself flirting with a defeat.

All Arroyo could do from there was hold on -- hold on and hope that his teammates could muster some offense and that the Reds bullpen could keep the game winnable.

"I thought if we could just hang on, we'd definitely have a chance against this guy," he said. "We saw him back-to-back times, and he obviously doesn't have overpowering stuff."

Overpowering stuff or not, on this night, the Reds didn't have a chance -- at least not much of a chance with the way Moehler was sinking and cutting his fastball.

He held the Reds to two hits over the first six innings, and he stopped them from mounting any legitimate threats until back-to-back singles brought Adam Dunn to the plate with one out in the seventh.

In need of a big hit off Moehler, the Reds didn't get one -- not from Dunn, who made the second out. Edwin Encarnacion's infield single did score a run, but Javier Valentin lofted a lazy fly to short left field to end the inning.

From there, Moehler and the Astros bullpen shut down the Reds, who wasted Arroyo's strong outing in front of 26,044 fans.

"I've got to tip my cap to him," Arroyo said. "It's the second time he's thrown better than me."

Justice B. Hill is a senior writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.