CINCINNATI -- All the elements for a division clinch celebration were in place for the Reds on Friday night, and everybody among the charged atmosphere inside Great American Ball Park knew it.
How perfect it could have been.
Alas, the Reds will have to wait at least one more day after dropping a 3-1 loss to the Dodgers in 10 innings with Matt Kemp's two-out, two-run single in the top of the 10th being the decider.
"We know Cincy is one game from clinching," Kemp said. "I have some friends over there, but I don't want to see them celebrate while we're on the field."
The Reds' magic number to clinch the National League Central is stuck at one.
"It was a tough ballgame, it was a fun ballgame," said reliever Sean Marshall, who faced Kemp in the 10th. "It felt like a playoff game."
The Reds already received some help Friday afternoon from the Cubs, who beat the second-place Cardinals. David DeJesus' RBI single in the 11th inning put the magic number to one as early-arriving Reds fans watched events unfold on the ballpark video board.
Then it was up to the Reds to take care of their own business.
In a no-decision, Reds starter Bronson Arroyo pitched brilliantly for eight innings and allowed one run on Juan Rivera's second-inning RBI groundout and six hits with no walks and four strikeouts.
"Stellar. He was really, really good," acting manager Chris Speier said of Arroyo. "He pitched ahead of the hitters and with everything. We've seen that many, many times. It was a great performance. It was just one of those things where we just couldn't get any runs for him."
Arroyo went on to retire the next 14 in a row and also helped himself at the plate. With two outs in the fifth against Dodgers starter Joe Blanton, Xavier Paul hit a ground-rule double to left-center field. After Ryan Hanigan was intentionally walked, Arroyo slashed a game-tying RBI single into left field.
"It was nice to even the score there, especially because I felt really good and I felt strong," said Arroyo, who finished with 88 pitches. "I felt like I could get deep in the ballgame. We just couldn't pull it off tonight."
Paul returned with a chance to give his team a lead but was called out on strikes against Shawn Tolleson with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth. Cincinnati, which notched only four hits in the game, had no hits vs. the Dodgers' bullpen and only one baserunner.
As a crowd of 35,397 stood in anticipation, there came a sense of deja vu as Jay Bruce led off the bottom of the ninth. It was Bruce who led off with a first-pitch walk-off homer vs. the Astros that clinched the Central in 2010.
"Obviously it's not something I've forgotten," Bruce said. "It was a pretty big moment in my baseball career."
Before Bruce stepped in the box, the videoboard showed the 2010 highlight and then flashed "we can do it again," in capital letters.
Only, this time they didn't. Bruce battled reliever Ronald Belisario hard but struck out. Belisario went on to strike out the side, forcing extra innings.
"Ron's got pretty good stuff, and he got me," Bruce said. "Those guys played us tough. It's a must-win for them. Every game matters so much to them. Every game matters to us too."
Reliever Sam LeCure took over for the Reds in the 10th inning and grazed Elian Herrera on the arm with a pitch to put the leadoff man on. A.J. Ellis dropped a sacrifice to the right side of the mound, where Joey Votto intercepted and fired a late throw to second base, where Herrera was safe.
Speier would have preferred the play to go to first base for the sure out.
"The aggressiveness of Joey -- there's a time for that. Herrera is a good runner," Speier said. "I know we wanted to take the out there and see how it all plays out."
Following pinch-hitter Nick Punto's sacrifice bunt, LeCure walked Mark Ellis and loaded the bases. Marshall took over and struck out Andre Ethier on a check swing. Then he had Kemp down in an 0-2 count but surrendered a two-run single to right field that snapped the tie.
"I was trying to throw out of the strike zone with it. It was out of the strike zone, I went back and watched the tape, but that's a good hitter," Marshall said. "He's a pro hitter. It would have been nice if we had pulled off the win, but we've got another game [Saturday] and another chance to clinch the division."
Cincinnati could become division champs before even taking the field on Saturday afternoon at 4:05 p.m. ET. The Cardinals will play the Cubs at Wrigley Field in a 1:05 p.m. start.
And there is a potential chance that manager Dusty Baker could be around to celebrate, if he is released from a Chicago hospital where he's being treated for an irregular heartbeat.
"Everybody in here within the organization wants him to partake in this," Speier said. "The reality is we need to stay focused and think about his health and well-being. That's first and foremost. This is going to happen. Would it be great to have him here? Yeah, but I think everybody tonight really, really, really wanted to get it. For me, the sooner the better. And the sooner he gets back here, the better."