OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Esteury Ruiz was absolutely certain he got hit by a pitch to load the bases in the bottom of the ninth inning.
When he got called back to home plate by umpires after a replay review overturned the call, it appeared to be just another wacky situation in a season full of them for the Oakland Athletics.
Instead, Ruiz turned it into a potentially pivotal moment for the struggling A’s when he singled in the winning run and Oakland beat the Cincinnati Reds 5-4 on Sunday to end its nine-game home losing streak.
“It’s something you can’t put words to,” Ruiz said through translator Sergio Almodovar when asked about his first career walk-off hit. “We’ve been starting off slow but little by little we’ve been working and working. A game like this is something we can build on.”
Jesús Aguilar and Brent Rooker homered for the A’s. The victory prevented Oakland (6-23) from having the worst 29-game start to a season since the 2003 Detroit Tigers opened 4-25.
The crowd of 18,271 was Oakland’s largest since 26,805 on opening day.
“This group showed their grit today, they really did,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said. “That’s what you have to love about this group. They continue to fight and they continue to improve and get better. Today was needed for the confidence. You could see it in the celebration. They needed this win today.”
Ruiz delivered the game-winner three pitches after appearing to get plunked. But the Reds challenged and the call was overturned. Ruiz then drilled a full-count pitch from Alexis Díaz into left field, and the Oakland dugout emptied as players ran out to celebrate.
“He has a mature persona about him,” A’s second baseman Tony Kemp said of Ruiz. “I know he’s a young guy, but he definitely plays the game with a slow heart rate.”
Jace Peterson started the inning with a single off Derek Law (0-4). Kevin Smith sacrificed Peterson to second and reached safely when first baseman Matt Reynolds fumbled the ball. A wild pitch by Díaz advanced both runners.
With Ruiz mired in an 8-for-49 funk (.163) before his winning hit, Reds manager David Bell resisted the urge to pitch around him in the ninth.
“With where we were in the order, we wanted to attack it right there with Alexis on the mound,” Bell said. “I felt like that was the best chance we had to win the game.”
The Reds had runners at second and third in the top of the ninth before Zach Jackson (2-1) retired Jonathan India and Tyler Stephenson on swinging strikeouts and then got Henry Ramos to ground out.
Oakland led 2-0 and 3-1 before Cincinnati scored three times in the sixth capped by Kevin Newman’s two-run single following a two-out error.
Nick Senzel had two hits for Cincinnati, including a home run.
A day after losing on a broken-bat single that bounced off first base and scored two runs, the A’s led 3-1 behind a pair of homers and were in line to get their first win by a starting pitcher this season before the Reds rallied.
Ramos and Senzel started the comeback with consecutive one-out singles off Ken Waldichuk. Ramos has a six-game hitting streak to begin his career, tied for the third-longest in franchise history.
Reynolds flied out before Domingo Acevedo replaced Waldichuk. Cincinnati pinch-hitter TJ Friedl hit a grounder that Acevedo fielded before throwing wildly past first base, allowing Ramos to score. After pinch-hitter Jake Fraley was intentionally walked to load the bases, Newman lofted a single to right to drive in two runs and give the Reds a 4-3 lead.
Reds starter Nick Lodolo had seven strikeouts in five innings during his first appearance against the A’s.
Oakland tied it on Rooker’s sacrifice fly in the seventh.
Waldichuk allowed three runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings. He also gave up his major league-leading 10th home run of the season.
Reds: RHP Fernando Cruz was placed on the 15-day injured list with a right shoulder strain. The move is retroactive to April 29. … RHP Graham Ashcraft was reinstated from the paternity list.
Athletics: INF Aledmys Díaz underwent an MRI that revealed a Grade 1 hamstring strain. He’s been receiving treatment, and the club hopes he can avoid the IL.
Reds: RHP Luke Weaver pitches Monday against San Diego. Weaver was tagged for three home runs by Texas in his most recent start last Tuesday.
Athletics: After a day off Monday, RHP Mason Miller (0-1, 6.48 ERA) starts against Seattle in the opener of a three-game series. Miller, who began the season in the minors, is still seeking his first career victory.
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