Bronson Arroyo baffles Giants as Reds cruise to 2-0 series lead

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After 13 years in the bigs, Bronson Arroyo finally has a postseason victory to his credit. He was nearly perfect for seven innings Sunday in combining with two relievers on a two-hit shutout as the Reds topped the Giants 9-0.

The Reds will take a 2-0 series lead with them as they go home for the remainder of the NLDS.

Arroyo retired 14 in a row to start the game before Brandon Belt singled with two outs in the fifth. It proved to be the only hit Arroyo would allow through seven innings. Arroyo remained in to bat in the top of the eighth, but he was removed after the Reds scored five times in the frame, upping their lead from four runs to nine.

J.J. Hoover took over for Arroyo and pitched a hitless eighth. Jose Arredondo gave up a Pablo Sandoval double and a walk before closing out the ninth.

The outing lowered Arroyo’s postseason ERA from 6.04 to 4.60. He had previously made three starts and eight relief appearances in October, but only one of those — a no-decision against the Phillies in the 2010 NLDS — came in his seven years with the Reds.

Cincinnati took an early lead tonight on Ryan Ludwick’s second-inning solo homer and kept the pressure on Madison Bumgarner with four singles in a three-run fourth. Tim Lincecum was able to quiet the Reds in his third ever relief appearance, working scoreless sixth and seventh innings. However, the Reds put the game away when they batted around in the eighth.

The Giants announced earlier Sunday that they’ll throw Ryan Vogelsong when the series resumes Tuesday in Cincinnati. The Reds have Homer Bailey listed as their starter, and with the 2-0 lead, it’s become more likely that they’ll go that route. The alternative would be to bring back Johnny Cueto after he left Saturday’s game in the first inning with back spasms.

Evan Longoria: ‘I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base’

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.