OAKLAND -- With gusto, Gio Gonzalez did away with his recent string of struggles. The same can't be said for the A's, though.
- 134 wins
- 118 wins
Doomed by a late-inning implosion of the bullpen, Oakland dropped a 6-4 Interleague matchup with the Reds on Monday, falling 8 1/2 games out of first place in the American League West. The A's are now 2-8 in their last 10 contests and have plummeted 6 1/2 games off the pace of first-place Texas during that span.Asked how he felt after the game, A's manager Bob Geren said, "Not very good, obviously. We had a good outing from Gio. ... We battled a pretty good young pitcher over there and we got in position to take it and had a chance to win in the ninth, but pitching fell apart a little bit at the end." What looked to be a low-scoring sleeper escalated into a slugfest in the game's final innings. After Craig Breslow pitched a perfect eighth to preserve a 1-1 tie, Geren brought in closer Andrew Bailey to keep the game knotted. Bailey faltered, though, allowing a pinch-hit RBI single to Reds outfielder Jay Bruce. But A's third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff bailed out Bailey with a homer to right field to lead off the ninth, sending the game to extra frames. That's when things fell apart for Oakland. Former A's catcher Ramon Hernandez hit the first pitch he saw from Oakland reliever Michael Wuertz off the left-field foul pole to lead off the 10th, the precursor to a deadly deluge. "I was trying to get a good pitch to hit, get on base," Hernandez said. "I got lucky that ball hit the pole." Cedrick Bowers relieved Wuertz and prolonged the A's misery, as he surrendered fatal back-to-back jacks. Bowers gave up a two-run blast to Joey Votto before allowing a solo shot by Scott Rolen. "Those were some stupid pitches, man," Bowers said. "Stupid." It all spoiled a solid outing from Gonzalez. Loser of his previous two contests, Gonzalez said he felt more confident with his stuff on Monday, and it showed. He allowed an unearned run on four hits and a walk over seven innings, while setting a new season-high with nine strikeouts. After Votto doubled in leadoff man Brandon Phillips, who reached base on a Cliff Pennington error to start the game, the Reds struggled to get any momentum going against Gonzalez. The 24-year-old southpaw retired 16 of the final 18 batters he faced. "For me, it's a plus, it's a positive," Gonzalez said. "It's a step toward the right direction, and the team showed life. They showed today that we're going to battle all the way to the end, and it was an exciting game all the way to the last out." Cincinnati starter Mike Leake, meanwhile, struggled with his command but kept the A's damage minimal. He went six innings, allowing five hits and four walks, but limited Oakland to a single run. Conor Jackson singled in Rajai Davis in the fifth to tie the game at 1 and earn his first home RBI with the A's, but Daric Barton killed the rally by sliding past third base and getting tagged out on the play. "He's got a lot of movement on his pitches," Jackson said. "He was working us with his sinker and keeping us off balance. He's pitching like a veteran. Normally, you get a young guy who makes a lot of mistakes over the plate, but he just didn't do it tonight. The A's made a late push in the bottom of the 10th to make it interesting, but Jack Cust struck out to end the game as he represented the game's tying run. Oakland loaded the bases with no outs but could only manage a pair of RBI groundouts before Cincinnati reliever Jordan Smith closed the door to earn his first career save. Though the mood was understandably gloomy within the A's clubhouse following the game, Gonzalez shared some optimistic words of encouragement for his team. "I think we're going to push through this," Gonzalez said. "We're going to find our groove and we're going to go out there and we're going to battle." Among the bright spots in the Oakland lineup was A's shortstop Cliff Pennington, who went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks. In his past eight games, Pennington is now hitting .480 (12-for-25), with five walks and six runs scored. "It's a critical time of the season, for sure," Geren said. "We're right there -- we were in first place a couple of weeks ago. We came out and had a little bit of a rough time, but the good news is we're swinging the bats better and our lineup's doing better."
Alex Espinoza is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.