CINCINNATI (AP) -- Daniel Mengden's unusual delivery -- patterned in part after Dontrelle Willis' high leg kick -- had the Cincinnati Reds hitters guessing and missing. His only mistake in his major league debut cost him a win.
That's how bad the Oakland Athletics' offense is these days.
Jay Bruce hit a two-run homer off Mengden, who made his major league debut after a speedy rise through the minors, and made a run-saving catch at the end on Saturday as the Cincinnati Reds held on for a 2-1 victory.
The A's have dropped seven in a row -- all on the road -- and have scored two runs or less five times. This meltdown cost their rookie pitcher a win.
"I thought he was great," manager Bob Melvin said. "You can't expect any more than that. We're not scoring any runs, not getting any hits, not putting any pressure on the other side. It comes down to one pitch, that's all it was. That shouldn't ruin your day."
The 23-year-old Mengden (0-1) was acquired from Houston last July as part of the deal for Scott Kazmir. The fourth-round draft pick in 2014 started the season in Double-A, but he needed only two months to make it to the majors. He gave up six hits, walked four and struck out five in 5 2/3 innings, throwing 104 pitches to hitters he used to play in video games.
"You try to stay as calm as possible," Mengden said. "The first inning was something I've been dreaming about since I was 6 years old. It was a little nerve-racking.
"After that first inning, I thought I slowly settled in, inning after inning, as the game went along. It was a lot of fun."
Dan Straily (4-2) allowed Danny Valencia's RBI single during seven innings against his former team. Ross Ohlendorf gave up a pair of singles in the ninth, but Bruce made a running catch of Marcus Semien's fly ball into the corner in right to save a run. Ohlendorf fanned pinch hitter Billy Butler to end it, getting his second career save and his first of the season.
For Oakland, it was a chance to see a pitcher expected to play a big role in coming years. Mengden wasn't considered for the rotation during spring training after getting no higher than Class A last year.
The righty has an unusual windup, one that started with him emulating Willis' leg kick. He gets the sign with his glove held in front of his face, and then briefly pauses after raising his hands behind his head. In the stretch, he brings his hands high above his head before setting them again at his waist.
"It's his own style and he's got some deception with it," catcher Stephen Vogt said. "It's obviously unconventional."
Mengden fanned Zack Cozart, the first batter he faced. He got in trouble in the third by walking Joey Votto and leaving a fastball up and over the middle of the plate to Bruce, whose estimated 439-foot drive to right field landed a few rows from the top of the stands. Bruce's 14th homer gave him a team-high 44 RBIs.
Bruce has hit six homers in his last 14 games.
Straily pitched for Oakland from 2012-14, including a playoff game in 2013. He repeatedly pitched out of trouble against one of the AL's least-productive offenses. Oakland loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth, but center fielder Tyler Holt made a diving catch of Billy Burns' line drive to end the threat.
The A's fell to 0-4 in interleague play. The Reds are 2-7.
The A's have lost their last nine road games overall, their worst slide since they dropped 11 in a row on the road in 2005. They're 12-20 on the road this season.
Athletics: OF Khris Davis was out of the lineup as a precaution, a day after getting hit in the left arm by a pitch. He had a pinch-hit single in the seventh. ... INF/OF Mark Canha was transferred to the 60-day DL as part of the move to call up Mengden.
Reds: Holt jammed his left hand and wrist while diving headfirst into third base in the second inning. He immediately grabbed the wrist and winced, but stayed in the game.
Athletics: RHP Kendall Graveman (2-6) is 1-5 with a 7.03 ERA in his last eight starts. The first four hitters in opponents' lineups are batting .355 off him.
Reds: LHP John Lamb (1-3) has gone seven innings in two straight starts, the only Reds pitcher to do that this season.
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