There it was, a 1-1 fastball right over the inner half of the plate from John Ely. With a crack of the bat, the ball sailed into the left-field seats and, pure luck or not, it served as an early three-run dagger in Ely's afternoon.
"I just tried to throw a fastball in and didn't get it in there enough," Ely said. "Before the game, I knew he could swing the bat. I didn't think he was going to hit a bomb. But, hey, it is what it is, tip your cap."
Ely had knocked in a run himself in the top of the second, but one run was not nearly enough in the Dodgers' 7-1 loss at Cincinnati on Thursday. It's not often that two pitchers combine for four RBIs in one inning, but Arroyo's three-run homer in the bottom of the second answered Ely's hit and then some.
By the time Ely's outing was done, he had given up seven runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings, as it turned out the second-inning trouble was only the beginning.
"It just didn't look like he made enough quality pitches," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "I think it just comes down to that. He pitched careful to a fault with getting behind the eight hitter and then having to walk him, and we certainly knew the fact that Bronson Arroyo is a pretty good hitter, especially when he's swinging at the fastball. It was just a game that he wasn't sharp."
Pitching in front of several college friends -- he played at nearby Miami University in Oxford, Ohio -- Ely had hoped to rebound from a pair of rough starts. After a six-game stretch in which he didn't allow more than two runs in a game, he gave up four runs in five innings in each of the previous two heading into Thursday.
While the disappointing results continued, Ely said there's no reason for him to lose confidence. It's all a matter of adjusting and throwing the pitches he says he's capable of throwing.
"You've got to learn from something like this," Ely said. "Obviously, the last couple of outings have been learning experiences, and everybody's going to struggle at some point. The best thing I can do at this point is just move on and take as much away from this outing as I can and go out and really try to bring it next time."
Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips also homered off Ely, while the Dodgers' offense couldn't get the timely hits needed to get back into the game. Los Angeles stranded 10 runners, with three double plays stopping any offensive momentum.
"Honestly, the whole day was pretty lucky for me," Arroyo said. "I had some of the worst stuff I've had in a long, long time. I just didn't have command of anything. I didn't have a breaking ball at all. I was getting away with having a decent sinker and changeup at times. I was having a hard time commanding anything. Fortunately, I got some ground balls that turned into double plays and got me out of some big innings."
With Arroyo out of the game in the eighth, the Dodgers loaded the bases and called on Manny Ramirez to pinch-hit, but he softly grounded out to shortstop to end the threat.
While Arroyo got away with walking six batters, Ely couldn't get similar breaks. The Reds capitalized on his mistakes and got the timely hits needed to take one game from the Dodgers, who won the first two in the series.
Now, Ely will have to work to recover quickly, as the Los Angeles rotation continues to face questions, especially with the injury to Chad Billingsley. The rookie's early-season success showed his ability to pitch and get hitters out, but the question now is whether he can quickly regain that earlier form.
"Now we have to find out how he's going to get back on track," Torre said. "I certainly think he's a big league pitcher, but he's a youngster, and it's unfair to expect things. I think we have to see how emotionally he's going to be able to handle bouncing back. He's going to get another opportunity to do it. He doesn't seem to have any different personalities, so it's tough to find out if he's nervous just because of his personality."
Matt Brown is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.