CLEVELAND -- The makings of a great road trip for the Reds eroded to one that was merely .500. Its conclusion certainly felt worse than that.
In a thud that was probably felt four hours south down Interstate 71, the Reds were roughed up for an 8-1 loss by the Indians on Wednesday at Progressive Field as Justin Masterson dominated with a three-hit complete game.
"They beat us up good tonight. Masterson was masterful," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.
After a six-game win streak, during which they swept Cleveland in three games at home last week, followed by taking all three from the Mets in New York, the Reds were handed a three-game sweep along the shores of Lake Erie to complete the 3-3 road trip.
By most standards, a .500 road trip is not a bad outcome, especially since both road series were against winning teams. But considering how well it started, anything less than a winning trip wasn't good enough.
"Any time you get swept, it's not a good feeling," left fielder Todd Frazier said. "It's not sitting well in my stomach, especially with my performance in the series. You say, 'One day at a time', but at the same time, the one day at a time was three losses. It's an off-day [Thursday]. We'll come back, regroup and we'll be fine. It happens. We swept two teams in a row, and then we got swept."
Reds starter Bronson Arroyo's four innings of work tied a season low, while his five earned runs allowed tied a season high. He also gave up eight hits and walked two, with two strikeouts.
Arroyo nicely worked out of jams in each of the first three innings but was jumped for a five-run Cleveland fourth.
To snap a scoreless tie after Casey Kotchman's one-out single down the right-field line, Johnny Damon took a 2-2 Arroyo pitch deep to right field for a two-run home run. The inning compounded on Arroyo when he walked next batter Lonnie Chisenhall and later issued a two-out walk to nemesis Shin-Soo Choo, who doubled in his first two at-bats.
Asdrubal Cabrera, who won Tuesday's game for the Indians with a walk-off homer in the 10th, slugged an 0-2 Arroyo pitch for a three-run homer to right-center field. On Kotchman, Damon and Cabrera, poor location wrecked Arroyo's night.
"The Damon home run, I didn't get any bite on the breaking ball," Arroyo said. "I needed it to move in on his hands a little bit. It spun and stayed middle with him. I totally missed my spot on Cabrera. You can't miss your spot that far and not expect to get hurt."
For Arroyo, who threw 90 pitches and took the Reds rotation's first losing decision since June 5, the evening was a grind from the get-go.
"Even if I got out of that inning with no runs, I would have been up to 20 pitches an inning," he said. "It was hot out there, and Masterson was pitching so good. I found myself back on the mound every three minutes after I sat back down. It was going to be a tough game no matter what. He threw an unbelievable ballgame, kept us off balance all day. He got a hundred ground balls, and they just dominated us on both ends."
Actually, Masterson notched 14 of his outs via the ground ball while striking out nine without a walk. He faced the minimum number of hitters over his first six innings. In the top of the first inning, Chris Heisey was hit by a pitch and erased by Joey Votto's inning-ending double play. Heisey notched the Reds' first hit in the fourth inning but was caught stealing.
"Justin was just fantastic. He was just dominant the whole game," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "He pounded the strike zone with that heavy sinker, and then he was able to throw the ball by guys."
Cincinnati's next hit didn't come until Votto's two-out single in the seventh. In the eighth, Jay Bruce reached on an error and went to third on Frazier's double, which was the Reds' third and final hit. Willie Harris' groundout got Bruce home with an unearned run, ending Masterson's career-high 18-innings scoreless streak.
"He was mixing his speeds up anywhere from 95 to 87 [mph]," Frazier said. "He was trying to get your timing off a little bit. That's what he did. He's a good pitcher."
Masterson cruised through the ninth inning and struck out the side.
Wednesday marked the first time that both Ohio teams were in first place in their respective divisions. Cincinnati remains 2 1/2 games up on the Pirates in the National League Central.
As for the Ohio Cup, it's a push since the Interleague rivals' series ended at 3-3. The Reds lost the first two games by one run, leaving them oh-so-close to a winning trip.
"It was only a six-day road trip, but it seemed a lot longer than that when you get swept," Baker said. "It was a tough three days."