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06/17/10 5:02 PM ET

Reds return to first behind trio of homers

Arroyo unleashes three-run shot, grinds out seven innings

CINCINNATI -- The score certainly didn't reflect it, but Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo walked a fraying tight rope all Thursday afternoon vs. the Dodgers.

Arroyo walked a career-high six batters. Then again, he also hit a three-run home run and induced three double plays as the rope held long enough during a 7-1 Reds win at Great American Ball Park.

"Honestly, the whole day was pretty lucky for me. I had some of the worst stuff I've had in a long, long time," said Arroyo, who also allowed one run and five hits over seven innings with only one strikeout. "I had a terrible breaking ball. I couldn't get it to move. Even when I got it to move, it was off the plate. My changeup was coming and going. I knew the only thing I had was a sinker that I could throw relatively close to the plate. I didn't have much velocity on it, which might have helped me out."

The Reds, who moved into a half-game lead over the idle Cardinals in the National League Central, desperately needed Arroyo to gut this one out. They were mired in their first three-game losing streak since mid-April and trying to avoid being swept by the NL West-leading Dodgers.

All of this while preparing to begin an Interleague trip vs. Seattle and Oakland on the West Coast, where the Reds historically have played poorly. The homestand ended at 4-6.

"When you've lost two of three to the Royals and you're looking down a sweep to these guys, every out and every pitch is huge," Arroyo said. "If you can pull off a win any way you can, it uplifts the team."

Two of Arroyo's walks came with two outs in the top of the second inning and led to pitcher John Ely's RBI single for the Dodgers' only run. Arroyo picked himself up in the bottom of the second with two outs when he hit a 1-1 pitch for a three-run home run to left field.

"I just tried to throw a fastball in and didn't get it in there enough," Ely said. "I didn't think he was going to hit a bomb."

"The home run was pure luck as well," Arroyo said. "I was looking for a 1-1 fastball on the inner half. I happened to catch it just right."

It was the fifth homer of Arroyo's career and his first since June 12, 2008.

"I told [bench coach] Chris [Speier], 'I feel Bronson is due for a home run,'" Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He said, 'Why don't you call it all the time?' I don't feel it all the time."

Joey Votto also tapped Ely with a two-run homer to left field in the third inning. It was Votto's third homer in his past four games and team-high-tying 14th overall. Brandon Phillips connected for a solo shot to center field with one out in the fifth. Two batters later, Jay Bruce hit an RBI single through the left side for a six-run Reds lead.

Much of the rest was up to Arroyo and his defense. In a quirk, the Reds picked up three double plays hit on the ground near first base at Votto in the first, fourth and seventh innings. Arroyo covered the bag each time to complete the 3-6-1 double play and escape the jams.

The last one, with Matt Kemp batting, came on Arroyo's 104th and final pitch of the afternoon. It made those dreaded mornings of pitchers' fielding practice in Spring Training worth it.

"That shows his athletic ability to get to the base," Baker said. "Those were key, key, key double plays. That's PFP at its finest right there. Bronson works on it as hard as anybody. You practice how you play. You never know when it's going to come into play."

In the sixth, right fielder Bruce also made a nice backhanded catch on the run at the warning track on a Garret Anderson drive to likely save two runs from scoring. In the eighth inning, reliever Arthur Rhodes worked himself into and out of a bases-loaded scare. The inning ended when pinch-hitter Manny Ramirez grounded out to shortstop, which made Los Angeles 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position while stranding 10.

"We had our chances, we just couldn't cash in," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said.

Bad stuff and all, it was still a good rebound for Arroyo -- who blew a 4-0 lead vs. the Royals last Friday before the Reds lost the game in 11 innings.

"It's a strange game," Arroyo said. "Against the Royals, I had great stuff and a four-run lead and couldn't hold it. Today I'm in trouble every inning and find a way to wiggle out of it."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.