CINCINNATI -- When Bronson Arroyo showed up the first time with his long, skinny sideburns and long, highlighted hair, no one was quite sure what to make of him.
A month later, the Cincinnati Reds love everything about him.
Arroyo stayed unbeaten by pitching a four-hitter for the second complete game of his career, and the Reds beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-1, last night in a matchup of the NL's top two teams.
''They're the No. 1 team in the division," said Arroyo, who threw only 109 pitches. ''It was nice to shut them down. Any time you go up against those guys, you want to show that you can play with them."
Cincinnati set a club record with 17 victories in April, and started a new month with the same winning formula -- a lot of offense, a little dazzling pitching.
Rich Aurilia hit a solo homer, and Felipe Lopez broke an 0-for-17 slump with a run-scoring single and a two-run bases-loaded single. Every Reds starter except Arroyo had a hit off lefthander Mark Mulder (2-1), who was denied his 100th career win.
''I just left a lot of pitches up as the day went along," Mulder said. ''Just one of them days."
Arroyo (5-0) is the first Reds starter to win his first five decisions since Paul Wilson went 7-0 in 2004.
''He's been outstanding," Lopez said. ''You can't say enough about what he's done. He's helped a lot.
''He brings the personality of being on a winning team. He has a lot of experience in the postseason, and we're feeding off that."
Arroyo extended the best start of his career by limiting the Cardinals to Juan Encarnacion's solo homer, three other harmless hits and three walks. His only other complete game was for Pittsburgh on Oct. 2, 2001, against the Mets.
Arroyo made 29 forgettable starts for Pittsburgh from 2000-02, before the Red Sox claimed him off waivers. In his return to the NL, he has gotten everyone's attention.
''We didn't see him," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said of Arroyo's first time through the NL. ''He was in Pittsburgh and then went off to the other league. I just know he's doing a lot of things well now."
Arroyo became the first Reds pitcher to go eight innings in three consecutive starts since Jose Rijo in 1994.
The victory left Cincinnati (18-8) in sole possession of first place in the NL Central, a game ahead of the defending champion Cardinals.
Arroyo did his best work against Albert Pujols, who had his way with the Reds during a three-homer game April 14 in St. Louis. Pujols leads the majors with 14 homers, a record for April.
''I tried to take him out of the equation," Arroyo said. ''He helped me out with a couple of nice popups early."
Pujols flied out twice, popped out, and walked, leaving it up to the rest of the Cardinals' lineup to prove itself. With their big hitter held in check, the Cardinals had no chance.
Arroyo allowed only one hit in eight innings of a 5-0 victory in Washington Wednesday. He extended his streak of scoreless innings to 16 before Encarnacion hit a solo homer into the upper deck in left field in the second inning, his second homer in two games.
Aurilia's homer barely cleared the right-field wall in the first inning and got the Reds' offense rolling. Lopez's two-out, run-scoring single put the Reds up, 2-1, in the fifth and snapped the shortstop's 0-for-17 slump. His bases-loaded single in the sixth off Josh Hancock completed a four-run rally that put the Reds in control.