CINCINNATI – Sitting on the top of the dugout bench pregame, Athletics manager Bob Melvin looked over Great American Ball Park and figured it was a perfect stop for his struggling team.
"Given the way we've been struggling on offense, I want them to think, 'Yeah, this is a good place to hit,'" Melvin said.
So much for that idea. Even in one of the most hitter-friendly places, the A's can't do much of anything these days.
Jay Bruce homered and made a run-saving catch on the warning track, and Mat Latos pitched into the eighth inning against Oakland's slumping lineup on Tuesday night, leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 3-1 victory.
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 — Derek Norris hit a two-out homer in the ninth off Aroldis Chapman that ended Oakland's streak of 18 innings without a run.
"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."
Latos (11-3) allowed four hits through 7 1-3 shutout innings, leaving him 3-0 in his last four starts. Chapman gave up his sixth homer of the season while getting his 26th save in 30 chances.
Bruce hit his 23rd homer off Dan Straily (6-6), who has lost all of his four starts since being called back up from the minors. 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.
Melvin decided to hit for Straily in the fifth inning after catcher Stephen Vogt led off with a single. The A's trailed 2-0 and Straily had thrown 75 pitches already.
"It's not so much frustrating as you never want to stop pitching," Straily said. "I felt like it was all right. I got out of some jams. Obviously you never want to get up a home run. Every time you go out there, you want to throw zeroes. It could have been worse, could have been a lot better."
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.
The A's stranded runners in scoring position in the first, third, fifth and eighth innings, setting themselves up for another bad night.
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 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 failed to last five innings for the third start in a row and for the seventh time in 18 starts overall this season.
Shin-Soo Choo led off the fifth with a double off left-hander Jerry Blevins and came around when the reliever 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. ... Reddick was hitless in four at-bats, leaving him in an 0-for-16 slump. ... Eric Sogard extended his hitting streak to a career-high 12 games. ... 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. ... 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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