Created on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 Written by JOE KAY,AP Baseball Writer
CINCINNATI (AP) — Ryan Ludwick had a bag of ice wrapped on his right shoulder, the one that's prevented him from doing much of anything all season. It seems to be finally coming around, just like his team.
Arizona Diamondbacks Jason Kubel (13) is forced out at second as Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips (4) throws to first base to complete a double play after a Wil Nieves ground ball in the ninth inning during a baseball game, Monday, Aug. 19, 2013, in Cincinnati. The Reds won 5-3. (AP Photo/David Kohl)
Ludwick drove in his first run of the season with a double, and the Cincinnati Reds kept up their August surge, beating the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-3 on Monday night for their seventh win in nine games.
The Reds moved 17 games over .500, matching their season high and keeping the pressure on Pittsburgh and St. Louis in the NL Central race.
"We've been playing pretty well since I came back," said Ludwick, who returned from shoulder surgery a week ago. "We were 5-2 on the road trip, and we beat the team that's behind us in the wild-card standings, so that's a good start to the series."
It's an important four-game series for Arizona, which now trails Cincinnati by six games for the final NL wild card spot. The Diamondbacks have won five of their last seven games, but can't afford to lose any more ground.
"We're hoping to win the next three — that's our goal," catcher Wil Nieves said.
Bronson Arroyo (12-9) won his third straight start, allowing three runs in six innings. Aaron Hill hit a solo homer, extending his hitting streak to 12 games.
J.J. Hoover retired the side in the eighth, his 23rd straight scoreless appearance — a club record and the longest active streak in majors.
Aroldis Chapman gave up a pair of singles in the ninth while getting his 31st save in 36 chances. It was the left-hander's first appearance since he gave up a two-run homer to Jonathan Lucroy for a 7-6 loss in Milwaukee on Friday night.
Ludwick got his long-awaited RBI during a three-run fourth inning against Randall Delgado (4-4), who had won his last three decisions. The left fielder tore cartilage in his right shoulder while sliding headfirst into third base on opening day.
He returned a week ago and had a pair of singles in 14 at-bats on a road trip, showing a lot of rust from his long layoff while recovering from surgery. Manager Dusty Baker has dropped him from the cleanup spot to sixth in the order while he gets his swing straightened out.
He doubled down the line at third base during the three-run fourth inning, his first RBI since a solo homer off Matt Cain during San Francisco's 6-4 win in Game 5 of their divisional playoff series at Great American Ball Park last Oct. 11.
"I actually felt a little better tonight," Ludwick said. "I don't know if it was being home in familiar surroundings or what.
"It's baby steps. It's a process. You feel like you want it all at once. You want to hit a home run in every one of your first 10 at-bats. Obviously, it's a rhythm and timing issue. Tonight, I felt like I had a pretty good rhythm at the plate."
The Reds could use a consistent right-handed run producer in their lefty-dominated lineup. Ludwick led the offense when Joey Votto missed most of the second half of last season with a knee injury, leading the Reds to the NL Central title.
"Like I've said, our best days are ahead of us," Baker said. "We've just got to keep winning in the meantime."
The Diamondbacks were coming off a 16-inning, 4-2 win in Pittsburgh that left their bullpen worn down. They needed a solid start from Delgado, who came up short.
Todd Frazier hit a solo homer. Brandon Phillips had a triple among his three hits off Delgado and scored a pair of runs. Zack Cozart drove in two with a sacrifice fly and a groundout, helping the Reds pull ahead 5-1 after five innings.
The Diamondbacks loaded the bases in the sixth, and Martin Prado singled for a pair of runs that cut it to 5-3. Arroyo allowed seven hits but didn't walk a batter for the third straight start.
Notes: Diamondbacks C Miguel Montero, on the DL since Aug. 1 with a strained lower back, is scheduled to catch on Wednesday, take a day off, then catch Friday and Saturday. He'll be evaluated then. ... LH Matt Reynolds, on the DL since June 10 with a strained left elbow, is playing catch but hasn't thrown off a mound. ... Hill is 8-for-21 career against Arroyo with three homers. ... Phillips is 8-for-16 during a four-game hitting streak. ... Cozart leads the NL with nine sacrifice flies. ... The Diamondbacks will start LH Patrick Corbin, who hasn't won on the road since June 2, in the second game of the series. LH Tony Cingrani makes his first career appearance against the Diamondbacks.