The Oakland Athletics aim to get their offense going in their first ever trip to Great American Ball Park, where on Tuesday they open a quick two-game set with the Cincinnati Reds.
The A's are visiting the Reds for the first time in the regular season since 2002, when Cincinnati was playing its final campaign at Cinergy Field. Oakland swept that three-game set and is 10-4 all-time versus Cincinnati in the regular season.
The Athletics, who swept a two-game set with the Reds at home from June 25-26, are coming off a 4-0 loss to the Texas Rangers in the rubber match of a three- game set on Sunday. Oakland left that series two games up on Texas for first place in the AL West.
That advantage could continue to shrink if Oakland's offensive issues continue. The A's are 1-4 over their last five and are batting .230 and averaging 3.7 runs per game in 16 contests since the All-Star break, an 8-8 span.
In 22 games since a 10-4 win at Kansas City on July 7, the A's are hitting just .212 and plating an average of 3.2 runs per game.
"We need to get on a roll with (the offense) and then we can put this period past us," A's manager Bob Melvin remarked after Sunday's loss.
Melvin will hand the ball tonight to Dan Straily, who faces the Reds for the first time in his career looking to avoid a fourth straight loss.
The right-hander has lost all three games since returning from Triple-A Sacramento on July 20 and is coming off a 5-0 setback versus Toronto last Tuesday. He was touched for five runs -- two earned -- over 4 2/3 innings, yielding six hits, two homers and a pair of walks.
"He got some balls in the middle of the plate, and that's a ballclub that scores some runs," said Melvin about Straily, who has not won since July 9. "They hit some homers, and you have to be on top of your game, and that just wasn't the case tonight."
In 17 starts this season, the 24-year-old Straily is 6-5 with a 4.41 earned run average.
The Reds come into this series having lost seven of their past nine games and have dropped 6 1/2 games back of first place in the NL Central. Cincinnati does still own a 4 1/2-game advantage over the Arizona Diamondbacks for the league's second Wild Card.
The Reds had plenty to work on and think about during Monday's off day after getting blitzed for 19 hits in a 15-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals the previous day.
"I don't like to be embarrassed by my team," an unhappy Reds manager Dusty Baker said afterward. "Fortunately for us, we get to rest and regroup (with an off day) tomorrow."
Baker has not been embarrassed much this season by Mat Latos, who takes the mound for Cincinnati tonight in his first ever meeting with Oakland.
Latos has won four of his past six decisions and pitched well in a no-decision at San Diego on Tuesday. He yielded two runs on six hits and two walks over six innings, striking out six in his club's 4-2 setback.
The 25-year-old righty is 10-3 with a 3.38 ERA in 22 starts this season, including a 6-1 mark at home to go along with a 3.54 ERA in nine games.