Athletics 6, Reds 1
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Joe Blanton’s teammates have come to expect they’ll be headed out of the ballpark in about two hours on the nights he starts.
“I like to work quick,” Blanton said. “Sometimes it’s chilly and I don’t want to be out there either. … I think it just makes the pace of the game better. When I was in high school, if you have a guy who takes forever it takes you out of the focus of the game.”
Blanton (7-4) struck out five and didn’t walk a batter to win for the third time in four starts. Eric Chavez hit a sacrifice fly and Nick Swisher had three singles and an RBI groundout for the A’s, who improved their perfect regular-season mark against the Reds to 7-0.
The last time the A’s and Reds met, from June 7-9, 2004, Oakland got 51 hits and a club-record 40 runs for a three-game series—with wins of 13-2, 10-6, and 17-8. Cincinnati went 0-7 on that road trip and was in contention before that Bay Area stop.
This time, Cincinnati didn’t get a hit from its Nos. 1 through 5 hitters until Scott Hatteberg singled with two outs in the sixth and Ken Griffey Jr. followed with a bouncing base hit that just got out of the infield. Blanton escaped unscathed when he struck out Brandon Phillips for the second time in the game to end the inning.
Edwin Encarnacion had two hits in the No. 6 hole as the Reds opened one of their six road trips this season lasting 10 days or more—and fourth of five in a row.
Blanton threw 106 pitches with 76 strikes in an efficient eight-inning outing. The right-hander, who started in Oakland’s two shortest games this year, had a six-pitch, six-strike first inning and kept up the quick pace—getting through five on 53 pitches with 40 strikes.
It helps that he hasn’t had to shake off a pitch call by catcher Jason Kendall, well, in as long as Blanton can remember.
“I don’t know—maybe last year,” he said.
Another big night by Blanton was a positive for the A’s after they lost the last two games of a weekend series with St. Louis after taking Friday’s opener from the Cardinals 14-3.
“Where we were the last couple of days, what we needed was a well-pitched game from our starter,” manager Bob Geren said. “Tremendous performance from Joe.”
Ellis connected for his seventh home run with two outs in the fifth, sending a 3-1 pitch from Kyle Lohse into the staircase in left field.
“Mark Ellis’ home run was a big blow there,” Reds manager Jerry Narron said.
Ellis is batting 21-for-65 with four home runs, six doubles, a triple, 14 RBIs and seven multihit games in 16 games since the birth of his first child, a son named Briggs, on June 1. Ellis has acknowledged he is more relaxed now that the baby has arrived.
“Sometimes people think it’s just ballplayers,” Geren said. “There’s a human side. You never know how personal things affect different players. It seems he’s been feeling great since that day.”
Lohse (3-9) had his shortest outing in five starts since also going only 4 2-3 innings against Washington on May 23. He allowed six runs—five earned—on eight hits, struck out four and walked four.
The right-hander, who lost for the third time in four starts, already found himself in a bases-loaded jam with just one out in the first inning.
“Ellis’ home run pretty much put it out of reach the way Blanton was pitching,” Lohse said. “Even when I was going through quick innings, I didn’t have good stuff.”
Travis Buck singled to start the inning, then Nick Swisher singled an out later before Chavez walked. And Lohse seemed to be out of it after he struck out Jack Cust and had Ellis headed for a routine grounder when shortstop Alex Gonzalez booted the ball for an error that scored a run.
Chavez, the A’s six-time Gold Glove 3B, returned to the lineup after missing two games with soreness on the left side of his ribcage. “It was just cold and hard to stay loose,” Chavez said. “It’s fine and I’m not going to have any problem with it.” … Former A’s 1B Scott Hatteberg was cheered when he stepped in to hit in the first for Cincinnati. He went 1-for-4 and extended his hitting streak to seven games. Another former A’s player, pitcher Aaron Harang, won’t start this series.