Mat Latos couldn't get his curve to obey or his slider to work, but he had one thing in his favor. It doesn't take a whole lot these days to get the Oakland Athletics out.
Latos pitched into the eighth inning against Oakland's slumping lineup, and Jay Bruce homered and made a run-saving catch on the warning track, leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 3-1 victory on Tuesday night.
The Reds had dropped seven of nine and were coming off what players called an embarrassing weekend against St. Louis — losses of 13-3 and 15-2.
They found an American League team struggling even more. The West-leading Athletics have lost five of six, getting shut out twice during that span. It was nearly three shutouts — Derek Norris hit a two-out homer in the ninth off Aroldis Chapman.
Not bad on a night when the starting pitcher is pretty much reduced to a fastball.
"I didn't have my off-speed pitches," Latos said. "My curveball was above the shoulders and my slider was below the toes. (Catcher Devin Mesoraco) did a good recognizing it. He knew I didn't have my slider, and he and the defense did a great job behind me.
"I found it late, but before that, we were able to exploit some weaknesses we thought we saw in them. They put the ball in play and the defense did the job."
Latos (11-3) allowed four hits through 7 1-3 shutout innings, leaving him 3-0 in his last four starts. Chapman got his 26th save in 30 chances.
"He was in and out of trouble," manager Dusty Baker said of Latos. "He made the pitches when he had to. The defense made the plays when it had to. He left a lot of runners out there. He did a good job keeping us in the game."
Bruce hit his 23rd homer off Dan Straily (6-6), who has lost his last four starts. The right fielder also went a long way to run down Josh Reddick's fly ball to the warning track in the fourth, saving a run.
The A's made their first visit to Great American Ball Park — opened in 2003 — hoping to break out of their offensive slump in a hitter-friendly place. The A's are only 8-9 since the All-Star break.
Heading into the interleague series, the A's were batting .218 in their last 20 games, getting blanked four times. They were coming off a 4-0 loss to Texas on Sunday. Manager Bob Melvin said his players knew all about Great American's propensity to help hitters, and hoped it would provide some encouragement.
Didn't work out that way. The A's stranded runners in scoring position in the first, third, fifth and eighth innings.
"You've just got to play your way through it, fight your way through it, have better at-bats, get grittier, find a way to get the guy home," Melvin said. "We're not swinging our bats, there's no doubt about that.
"You go through these periods, yet you try to minimize them so they don't go on too long."
Coco Crisp tripled over first base with one out in the third but failed to score as the next two batters popped out. Their best chance came in the fifth, when they loaded the bases on Stephen Vogt's single, second baseman Brandon Phillips' error and a walk. Yoenis Cespedes grounded into a forceout.
Cincinnati didn't get much offense, either, but this time it was enough.
Bruce led off the second inning with a drive to left. Phillips singled home another run in the fourth, which was Straily's final inning. He threw 75 pitches while failing to last five innings for the third start in a row and seventh time in 18 starts overall this season.
Shin-Soo Choo led off the fifth with a double off Jerry Blevins and came around when the left-hander fielded Derrick Robinson's bunt and threw wildly to first for an error.
NOTES: Oakland is 13-6 in interleague play, Cincinnati 7-9. The A's swept their two-game series in Oakland. ... The Reds plan to activate RH reliever Jonathan Broxton off the DL before Wednesday's game. C Ryan Hanigan (wrist) and LF Ryan Ludwick (shoulder) are expected back by the end of the week. ... 3B Todd Frazier was out of the starting lineup. He's in an 0-for-28 slump, the longest by a Reds player since Drew Stubbs went 0 for 32 last season. ... RHP Bartolo Colon tries for his 15th victory on Wednesday, facing Cincinnati's Homer Bailey (6-10). Colon has gone at least six innings and allowed three runs or fewer in his last 15 starts, the longest streak by an Athletics pitcher since at least 1916.
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