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ARI@CIN: Ludwick doubles to add to Reds' lead

CINCINNATI -- The Reds' offense hasn't just heated up, it's cooking with gas.

A 5-3 victory over the D-backs on Monday night made it wins in seven of the last nine games for the Reds, and the fifth time over the past seven games they have scored five or more runs. It's the type of offensive output the club has been waiting, wanting and searching for -- but hadn't gotten until lately.

"You always envision that, but you don't always get it," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "It's better to get it late than never get it. Like I said, our best days are ahead of us. I'm convinced of that."

At 71-54, Cincinnati is back to a season-high 17 games over .500. As it keeps the pressure on the first-place Pirates and second-place Cardinals in the National League Central, the win put the Reds six games up on the D-backs for the second NL Wild Card spot.

"We've got to leave it behind and come tomorrow and even it up and try to win as many games as we can in this series," D-backs third baseman Martin Prado said.

Each of the top six spots in the Reds' lineup had at least one hit in another well-balanced attack. But it was the run production of Ryan Ludwick that was most welcomed. Ludwick hit an RBI double in the three-run fourth inning -- his first extra base hit and RBI in a season marred by a four-month absence from a right shoulder separation.

"The key is team victories," said Ludwick, who returned to the lineup Aug. 12. "Since I've been back, we've been playing pretty good baseball. We went 5-2 on the road trip. We just beat a pretty good ballclub over there that's chasing us in the Wild Card standings. That's a good start to the series."

Four times in the game, the Reds put the leadoff man on base. That included Brandon Phillips' second-inning triple to the center-field wall before he scored on a Zack Cozart sacrifice fly. The Reds are 52-19 when scoring first this season.

Reds starter Bronson Arroyo kept his 1-0 lead until the fourth inning, when Aaron Hill hit a two-out solo homer to left field. Cincinnati responded with a big rally in the bottom of the fourth.

It began with four straight hits against D-backs starter Randall Delgado, as Joey Votto and Phillips both lined singles to left field and Jay Bruce lined an RBI single to center field. Ludwick followed with a double grounded down the left-field line. Standing on second base felt very good for Ludwick, who was 2-for-15 entering the at-bat since coming back.

"I actually felt better tonight than I felt yet," Ludwick said. "I don't know if that's being home, being in a familiar place. I actually felt like I had a chance tonight. Baby steps, you know?"

Bruce scored on Cozart's groundout for a three-run lead. Leading off the Reds' fifth, Todd Frazier crushed a first pitch from Delgado over the center-field fence for a home run, his third long ball over his last seven games.

"The offense is clicking a little bit, getting some big hits in some big situations," Arroyo said. "Ludwick getting a big hit tonight was nice for him, and [Ryan] Hanigan also getting in there and getting some good swings. It feels as if we have a whole team now, and it feels good going forward that at we least we can give it our best effort. We don't have too many guys missing."

Benefiting from the output on a night he didn't feel his best, Arroyo gave up three runs and seven hits over six innings with no walks and six strikeouts. Arroyo is 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA over his last three starts, and 12-9 with a 3.40 ERA in 25 starts overall.

Arizona stayed in the game with two runs in the sixth. Arroyo gave up three singles in the inning, with Prado reaching all the way out to pull a soft two-run single to left field that made it a two-run game. Manny Parra, J.J. Hoover and Aroldis Chapman picked up the final three scoreless innings. Chapman notched his 31st save despite giving up two hits, but got a nifty double play turned by Cozart and Phillips.

"I was just struggling a bit physically," Arroyo said. "Some days you go run a marathon, and a third of the way in, you're like, 'I don't know how I'm going to make it to the end of this road.' That's the way I felt tonight, but fortunately enough, I made some big pitches in some big situations in the first five innings, got some strikeouts that I really needed and the offense put up enough runs to give me that cushion there to keep it manageable for the bullpen late."

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