Reds find their way past A's

Jeff Wallner, The Sports Xchange

CINCINNATI -- Reds right-hander Mat Latos figured he was in for a rough night on Tuesday when he lacked command of his breaking ball in the first inning.

"I didn't have my slider tonight, or any of my breaking pitches," Latos said.

After escaping a 26-pitch inning, Latos cruised against the offensively challenged Oakland A's.

Latos, facing the A's for the first time in his career, allowed four hits in 7 1/3 innings and Jay Bruce hit his 23rd home run, lifting Cincinnati to a 3-1 victory in the opener of a two-game interleague series at Great American Ball Park.

Oakland (64-48) still leads the American League West despite losing for the fifth time in six games.

Cincinnati (62-51) rebounded after being outscored 31-13 in dropping two of three games to National League Central rival St. Louis this past weekend.

"We just needed to win a game and put all the negative stuff behind us," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "(Latos) didn't have his breaking ball early. But he spotted his fastball and relied on our defense. He put us in position to win the game."

Derek Norrris' pinch-homer with two outs in the ninth off Aroldis Chapman snapped Oakland's 18-inning scoreless streak.

But despite avoiding their second consecutive shutout and third in six games, the A's went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left eight runners on base.

"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," A's manager Bob 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) walked three and had three strikeouts en route to his 15th quality start this season.

"He was in and out of trouble," Baker said. "But he made pitches when he had to."

Reds leadoff batter Shin-Soo Choo went 2-for-3 with a double and a walk. He reached base three times and scored twice.

The A's had one final scoring chance when Jed Lowrie doubled with one out in the seventh. But J.J. Hoover retired the next two batters to end the threat.

Chapman struck out three batters in the ninth for his 26th save.

Bruce put Cincinnati on the board with a line drive home run off A's starter Dan Straily, making the score 1-0 in the second.

"It was a fastball out over the plate and away," Bruce said.

It was the eighth home run allowed by Straily in his past eight starts.

Oakland's Eric Sogard doubled with one out in the first and Coco Crisp tripled with one out in the third, but neither scored. Oakland loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth, but Yoenis Cespedes grounded into a force play to end the inning.

In the third, Choo walked and later scored on Brandon Phillips' RBI single making the score 2-0.

Strailey (6-6) pitched just four innings, allowing two runs and six hits. He earned his fourth consecutive defeat since being recalled from Triple-A Sacramento on July 20.

"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. Every time you go out there, you want to throw zeros. It could have been worse, could have been a lot better."

Cincinnati scored its third run on an error when Jerry Blevins fielded Derrick Robinson's sacrifice bunt and threw over first baseman Brandon Moss' head, allowing Choo to score.

NOTES: Oakland breathed a sigh of relief that RHP Bartolo Colon was not among the players suspended this week for use of performance-enhancing drugs. Colon, who was suspended 50 games last year for PED use linked to the Biogenesis clinic, is 14-3 this season with a 2.50 ERA in 22 starts. "That would've been quite the loss for us," Melvin said. "I think everybody had the same feeling ... that he had already done his time for that." ... Reds RHP Jonathan Broxton is expected to be reinstated from the disabled list on Wednesday. Broxton, the primary setup man in the bullpen, has been on the DL since June 15 with a strained right elbow. ... Tuesday marked Oakland's first appearance at Great American Ball Park and the first time facing the Reds on the road since 2002. ... Latos has allowed three or fewer runs in 17 of his 23 starts. ... Sogard's double extended his hitting streak to a career-high 12 games.