Reds 3, Athletics 1

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.

Follow Joe Kay on Twitter: http://twitter.com/apjoekay