OAKLAND -- The A's offense emerged from a dry spell and used a three-run seventh inning, featuring a go-ahead single from Yonder Alonso and a two-run triple off the bat of Marcus Semien, to claim a 5-3 victory against the Brewers on Tuesday night in the opener of a two-game series at the Coliseum.
Semien, who entered the game mired in an 0-for-15 stretch, finished with three hits and as many RBIs to ignite an offense that had totaled only five runs in its previous four games. It was just the A's fifth win of June.
"Early on, it felt like part of the last few days," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "Then all of a sudden, toward the end of the game where it was on the line, our at-bats were a lot more intense, a lot more focused it seemed like, and we got some big hits, certainly from Marcus."
Oakland right-hander Sonny Gray remained winless since April 22 despite allowing one earned run (two runs total) in six innings, with seven hits allowed to match his season-high-tying seven strikeouts. Kirk Nieuwenhuis delivered an RBI double off Gray in the fourth, and Chris Carter chipped in with a run-scoring single against his former team in the sixth for his second hit of the night.
Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson needed 105 pitches for five hard-fought innings, yielding one run and six hits. The Brewers fell to 1-7 on their West Coast road trip, with one game remaining.
"We're making enough mistakes to not win, and you can go to all phases of the game, from baserunning to pitching to offensively," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "We're just not doing quite enough. We've got to play better. Have there been some close games? Yeah. But we have to make plays in those games. You have to earn the wins."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED So close: The A's did their damage in the seventh with two outs, leaving Nieuwenhuis, Jonathan Villar and the Brewers to wonder, "What if?" The inning began with a Stephen Vogt drive to deep center field, where Nieuwenhuis appeared to many of the 14,810 fans on hand to make a spectacular catch as he crashed into the padded wall. But the baseball popped out of his glove, and Vogt had a leadoff triple. The next batter, Danny Valencia, hit a grounder to Villar's backhand side, but the shortstop misplayed it for an error. Those non-outs loomed large when Alonso and Semien delivered their big hits with two outs.
"It was in my glove. I had it. Then I hit the wall," a dejected Nieuwenhuis said. "I was trying to brace myself, but it just popped out. At a big point in the game like that, that's tough." More >
Always Dull: A's right-hander Ryan Dull can do without the drama. The reliever entered a critical situation in the seventh inning, taking over for John Axford in a two-run game with no outs and Ryan Braun standing on second base after a run-scoring double. Dull proceeded to work his magic yet again, inducing a fly ball that moved Braun to third before striking out Carter and getting Aaron Hill to send a pop fly into the glove of second baseman Jed Lowrie, just beyond the infield dirt. Dull has stranded all 30 of his inherited runners this season, and opponents are 1-for-42 against him with runners in scoring position.
"He's been as good as anybody in baseball in those situations," Melvin said. "It looks like he's made for these situations, to come in and get guys out, but it's not that easy. He's got the middle of the order for their guys, and they're all swinging pretty good, too. It's just amazing. His focus is on getting a hitter out. I know he knows there's a runner out there, but he's not focused on that. He's focused on making the pitch he needs to make at the time and doesn't get too much farther out than that."
Wide left: The Brewers' go-ahead run in the sixth was set up by a costly misfire by Gray. Braun legged out an infield hit to open the inning, and after Jonathan Lucroy's loud out to the warning track in center field, Gray's errant pickoff throw moved Braun all the way to third base, courtesy of the spacious foul ground at the Coliseum. Slumping slugger Carter, 0-for-2 in the game and in a 4-for-27 funk, took advantage with A's infielders playing in, smacking a line-drive single off Valencia's glove at third for a 2-1 Brewers lead.
"You just keep running. You turn off your internal warning system." -- Counsell, who played at the Oakland Coliseum himself, on how infielders adjust to the sea of foul ground here
WHAT'S NEXT Brewers: The Brewers are 7-2 when Junior Guerra takes the hill, and will aim to improve that mark when the right-handed splitter specialist starts Wednesday's 2:35 p.m. CT series finale vs. the A's at the Coliseum. Guerra is coming off a no-decision at Dodger Stadium in a game the Brewers won on Villar's ninth-inning home run.
A's:Daniel Mengden (0-2, 2.25 ERA) starts in Wednesday's series finale at the Coliseum, which begins at 12:35 p.m PT. The A's haven't provided the rookie much in terms of run support, scoring two runs in his first two starts. Oakland will travel to Anaheim following the game for a four-game set against the Angels that begins on Thursday.
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. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.