OAKLAND -- Scooter Gennett and Kirk Nieuwenhuis homered in support of right-hander Junior Guerra, who strung together seven strong innings to help the Brewers split a two-game Interleague set with the A's by way of a 4-2 victory at the Coliseum on Wednesday afternoon.Guerra's two-run performance, which included eight strikeouts,
OAKLAND -- Scooter Gennett and Kirk Nieuwenhuis homered in support of right-hander Junior Guerra, who strung together seven strong innings to help the Brewers split a two-game Interleague set with the A's by way of a 4-2 victory at the Coliseum on Wednesday afternoon.
Guerra's two-run performance, which included eight strikeouts, gave the Brewers a happy ending to an otherwise disappointing 2-7 road trip. He walked one and allowed five hits, including Coco Crisp's solo home run in the fourth that gave the A's a short-lived 1-0 lead.
The Brewers responded with a three-run inning in the fifth, highlighted by Gennett's two-run homer following a pair of costly miscues by the A's defense, including one from starter Daniel Mengden, who was saddled with his third loss in as many tries after allowing three runs in six innings with a career-high nine strikeouts.
"We needed this one," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "This was a tough trip, but to finish it on this note in a well-played game, it's important."
The A's narrowed Milwaukee's lead to one run in the seventh, courtesy of Max Muncy's RBI single, but the Brewers got it right back in the eighth when Nieuwenhuis launched a two-out solo shot against right-hander Liam Hendriks. Oakland has dropped 13 of 18 in June.
"I think you obviously want to see a guy get his first win," A's second baseman Jed Lowrie said of Mengden. "But I think that's why wins have become devalued in baseball. The guy's been pitching well, we just haven't been able to pull one through for him."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Fifth-inning fumbles: Gennett's two-run homer capped a three-run inning that featured two defensive lapses by the A's. Ramon Flores found his way to third base following a one-out double when Crisp's errant throw skipped beyond Lowrie's reach, with the infielder expecting a throw pointed at third instead. Yadiel Rivera then placed a sacrifice bunt in front of Mengden, but the pitcher fumbled it on the run toward Flores, who easily scored the tying run. Rivera was also safe at first on the play, setting up Gennett's go-ahead shot two batters later.
"Right as I fielded it, the ball was kind of jogging around in my glove a little bit, and I swung it up to try to grab it and flip to [catcher Josh] Phegley, but I just bobbled it and was going a little too quick," Mengden said.
Of Crisp's throw, A's manager Bob Melvin said, "We gotta somehow try to knock that ball down, go get it and keep the guy off third base. Whether it was just out of [Lowrie's] reach, I don't know, but talking to him it was just out of his reach, that he went as far as he could to get it."
Loud outs, but still outs: The A's didn't go quietly in the late innings. Three times in the final two frames, an Oakland batter representing the tying run hit a ball hard that found its way into a defender's glove. Lowrie's line drive in the eighth inning left his bat at 96 mph but was directed right to third baseman Aaron Hill. Danny Valencia followed with a 103-mph line drive to the gap in left-center, where Ryan Braun tracked it down. And Billy Butler made the game's final out on a flyout to deep left field, preserving save No. 2 for Tyler Thornburg. He pitched the ninth because closer Jeremy Jeffress is recovering from a right eye infection.
"Obviously, not a good road trip, but we were in almost every game," Thornburg said. "It could have been a lot different. This one definitely feels good." More >
Three starts, three losses: Mengden is still waiting for his first victory at the big league level, despite allowing three runs or fewer in each of his three starts for a 3.00 ERA. He's had run support of one, zero and one in that span, leaving him little wiggle room. The right-hander impressed again Wednesday, especially in his final inning when he rebounded from a three-run fifth to strike out the side ahead of his departure at 108 pitches. It marked the first time at any level this season Mengden allowed more than two earned runs.
"Overall, from my standpoint I thought I threw well, even though I'm 0-3 now," Mengden said. "It's just baseball. Some days you score, some days you won't, and some days you'll pitch good, some days you won't. I'm content with how I've been throwing. There's always room to work, though." More >
He was due: Nieuwenhuis was hitless in his first three at-bats Wednesday -- including a tough-luck lineout in the second inning that was scalded right at A's first baseman Yonder Alonso for a double play. Nieuwenhuis got revenge in the eighth, though, when he connected with a Hendricks changeup and sent it over the left-center field fence for a critical insurance run and a 4-2 Brewers lead. Nieuwenhuis was 3-for-20 on the road trip before that homer.
"Every game he's started, he gets better as the game goes on. For a lot of guys, the pitches later in the game, you worry about them. Junior's pitches later in the game, they're better. I think he gets comfortable with his split-finger and he gets better command as he goes along." -- Counsell, on letting Guerra finish the seventh inning against tough A's pinch-hitter Stephen Vogt. Guerra struck out Vogt with the tying runner at second base.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Brewers backup catcher Martin Maldonado entered the day with five hits in 49 at-bats all season. He had three hits in four trips to the plate Wednesday, including a pair of bloop singles, and let out a dramatic sigh after making eye contact with a reporter in the clubhouse after the game.
Brewers: The Brewers will try again against Nationals starter Max Scherzer on Friday at 7:10 p.m. CT, when the right-hander starts opposite Zach Davies in the opener of a three-game series at Miller Park. In Scherzer's last start in Milwaukee last June, he took a perfect game into the seventh inning and struck out 16 in a complete-game shutout.
A's: The A's will make the short trek to Anaheim for a four-game series with the Angels beginning Thursday. Right-hander Kendall Graveman, who is 0-1 with a 1.88 ERA in four career starts against them, is slated to start the 7:05 p.m. PT opener at Angel Stadium.
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Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.