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HOU@OAK: Reddick's RBI single wins it for the A's

OAKLAND -- Josh Reddick's bats had been in hiding. So, too, had his confidence.

Both were on display in the grandest of ways on Saturday, when the A's right fielder continued to dig his way out of an early-season hole with the walk-off single in Oakland's 4-3 victory over the Astros at O.co Coliseum.

For two days, Reddick has been pulling from a stash of bats that had mistakenly been stored above Alberto Callaspo's locker. In that time he's 6-for-9, after starting the year 4-for-41.

"Other than that," said Reddick, smiling, "it's just been hard work.

"It feels good again. The first week I was going up there thinking, 'How am I even going to touch this baseball?' It's a great turnaround, a great feeling to be back in the box with some confidence."

As a team, the A's never seem to lack any -- no matter the deficit, no matter the inning.

Slowed by poor defense and a weak showing at the plate with runners in scoring position for most of Saturday's game, they waited until the ninth to do most of their good work.

Down 3-1 entering the frame, the A's plated three in the inning to complete the comeback and enjoy their second straight win over the Astros, who have dropped six straight to fall to 5-13.

The A's, who got eight solid innings from Scott Kazmir, are an American League-best 12-5 with two walk-off wins to their name already. They have 26 total since the start of 2012.

"That's one of the best characteristics of this team," said Jed Lowrie, who started the comeback in the ninth with a leadoff homer to right field. "We had that last year, and we're off to a good start this year of really grinding out those last-inning at-bats and making it tough on the other guys, never making it easy on them."

Perhaps it was fitting that Lowrie, involved in a dustup with Houston manager Bo Porter on Friday night, kept the drama alive for another day with a his shot off right-hander Chad Qualls, who had never faced the shortstop before.

Josh Donaldson walked, and Yoenis Cespedes followed with a single, setting up Alberto Callaspo's game-tying hit one out later. That's when Reddick stepped to the plate and delivered the difference-maker, a sharp RBI knock to right-center field.

"We often talk about guys who are in deep slumps, and sometimes it only takes one game where you get a couple of hits or a couple of balls up, you start to feel a lot better about yourself," said manager Bob Melvin. "He had good swings today, certainly that last one. He's not trying to hit a homer there, just trying to get the ball in the air. He hit that as squarely as you can hit it.

"It's just more confidence than anything. His swings had been good, his balance had been pretty good. The only two times I've seen him off-balance were the first two swings that inning where he was out front a little. You could see him talking to himself and he stayed within himself, and that's what we want to see him do, let the ball travel and get a good look at it."

The A's were just 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position before the ninth, having stranded 12 baserunners to that point, their only other run coming in the third against lefty Brett Oberholtzer on back-to-back doubles from Daric Barton and Craig Gentry.

Moreover, they made two more errors, including a throwing miscue from catcher Derek Norris that led to a run in the fifth, to give them an AL-high 18 on the season.

Dan Otero, who pitched a scoreless ninth, recorded the win, but Kazmir's day was not to be overlooked.

The southpaw allowed just two earned runs (three total) on six hits with no walks and five strikeouts in a season-high eight innings. He finished eight innings just once last year, on July 24.

"It's great, early in the year, to be going deep in the games and still have quality pitches from my first pitch to my last pitch," said Kazmir. "It's huge, and to be able to get quick outs like that and reduce my pitch count each inning was important."

The $22 million lefty has been outstanding for the A's, allowing a combined five earned runs with 24 strikeouts next to just four walks in 27 1/3 innings over his first four starts.

He's also quickly picked up on their knack for the dramatic.

"If we're close enough, we feel like it's only a matter of time," Kazmir said. "Even if we get their best guy, we still feel like we can pull it out."

"We seem to get our best at-bats late in games, so even though it wasn't pretty for a while early on, that's why we play to 27 outs," said Melvin. "Every at-bat in the ninth inning was fantastic."

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