Arroyo makes first playoff win a masterpiece
Reds starter carries perfect game into fifth, leads club to verge of NLCS
SAN FRANCISCO -- That Bronson Arroyo is a little different isn't news, but it's safe to say no one in baseball knows the depth of the difference between Arroyo and your normal Major League pitcher better than Ryan Hanigan.On Sunday night, the Reds catcher was on the receiving end of all 91 pitches of Arroyo's finest October outing among a dozen he has pitched, this one a dominating seven-inning start that put the Reds on the road to a commanding 2-0 lead in the National League Division Series over the Giants.
It was a start beyond compare delivered by a pitcher beyond compare."Honestly, there is no one like Bronson in terms of the way he pitches, I don't think, in the game," Hanigan said after the Reds' 9-0 victory at AT&T Park. For Arroyo, the biggest difference Sunday night rests in the result. He got his first postseason victory, and at age 35 he delivered a big punch for a Reds team making the best of its second postseason appearance in three years. Arroyo carried a perfect game into the fifth inning and allowed just one single, using every pitch speed, every arm angle and every variation of pitch he has in his arsenal. That, in a nutshell, is what Arroyo does that sets him apart from any pitcher in the game. "He does so many different things with his breaking ball, with his fastball, with his changeup," Hanigan said. "He drops down with all his pitches, changes speeds, he will throw a lot of what we call 'BP speed' pitches. "It's hard to sit on stuff, and that's what a lot of big league hitters are doing, sitting on pitches and velocity, and you can't ever say he's a fastball-slider guy. He's unique, and that's what's tough. If he's throwing strikes and he's commanding his pitches, all of them, he can throw games like this for sure." There aren't many games like this thrown in the postseason, and for Arroyo it led to his first October victory after 11 tries, including three previous starts. "I haven't been able to take the ball and really lock down in a game like this in the playoffs in my whole career," Arroyo said in a TBS interview as he left the field. "It's definitely up there, but hopefully just the beginning of things to come for this ballclub." Arroyo's start was a pretty big thing for the Reds. The last time they'd had a pitcher take a no-hitter into the fifth inning in October was when Danny Jackson went 4 1/3 without allowing a hit in Game 6 of the 1990 NL Championship Series. And it's not as though Arroyo hasn't spun gems before, even recently. He had a two-hit shutout in 2009, the second of two three-hit shutouts earlier this year and a one-hitter through eight innings in 2006. He has five career shutouts and 13 complete games, so a dominant performance isn't new for Arroyo, even if the setting might be. Although Arroyo hadn't won a postseason game before Sunday, he was one of the team's touchstones in 2010, when many of his teammates were making their first appearances under the October spotlight, and he remains a mentor figure in that regard -- now with an expanded resume. "Yeah, you know, we still do have a very young ballclub, but back in 2010 everybody would ask me, 'How are you going to try to invoke your experience in playoffs past on this ballclub?' " Arroyo said. "It's impossible, and I say it all the time, it's impossible to tell somebody what it's like to stand on the free-throw line with no time left on the clock and you've got to hit both to tie, and that's what it feels like playing in the playoffs." Now there's a different perspective for you. But it's well established this is a different bird. It's evident those younger players -- especially the pitchers around him on the staff -- understand where Arroyo is coming from, and where he's been. Most of all, they understand by watching him what it takes to be in position to pitch well every time out -- all five starters made it through the season without a hitch this year. "I think the pitching staff and all the pitchers for sure look to him," Hanigan said. "The first thing I would say is if you just look at how many innings he throws, he never misses a start, how hard he works. "In baseball you're not going to get too many guys that are super rah-rah leader guys, but he leads by example -- and in terms of days off going to the yard and getting his workouts in, throughout his career, as long as I've been here -- and it's a great example for the guys to see the longevity and the ability to pitch, whether he feels good or not, and that's a huge thing."
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.