Reddick's RBI single caps A's comeback in 4-3 win over Astros
OAKLAND -- The first-place Oakland Athletics bumbled in the field and stranded runners left and right much of the day against the last-place Houston Astros on Saturday.
However, the A's still somehow pulled out a last-minute victory against their frequent punching bag.
Jed Lowrie led off the bottom of the ninth with a solo homer to cut the Astros' lead to one, then Josh Donaldson walked, Yoenis Cespedes singled -- and Alberto Callaspo tied the game with a base hit to center.
Josh Reddick followed with a game-winning single to right-center, giving the A's a 4-3 victory. At 12-5, the A's matched their best start for the third time over the past 33 years, also done in 1990 as well as last season.
"I'm happy to help contribute," said Reddick, who was 3 for 4 with a homer in the A's win on Friday night after starting the season 4-for-41 with one RBI in his first 12 games. "We battled our butts off."
Oakland is 22-5 vs. the Astros all-time, and Saturday the A's won despite making two errors and stranding 12 runners through the first eighth innings.
"We seem to get our best at-bats late in games," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "That wasn't pretty early on. That's why you play to 27 outs - almost every at-bat in the ninth inning was fantastic."
Lowrie led off the ninth with a homer down the first-base line off losing pitcher Chad Qualls (0-1). Lowrie's first-inning bunt attempt the night before, with a 7-0 lead, had irked Astros manager Bo Porter. Reddick's game-winning hit was the fourth of his career, while it was Oakland's second walk-off win of the season.
"It's a tough loss, especially as well as we played," Porter said, then added of Qualls. "We didn't finish it out. That was his inning. There were a couple pitches he elevated but they did a good job of putting good swings on the ball.
"Our bullpen has been taxed and he was the most rested. We had the right guys out there; we just didn't get it done."
Astros starter Brett Olberholtzer, who left early the previous day because of flu-like symptoms, went 5 2/3 innings and allowed eight hits and two walks but only one run while striking out three.
"I knew I had to come in and suck it up for the team," Olberholtzer said of pitching under the weather. "I knew I had to make quality pitches and go deep as I could."
Anthony Bass, who took over from Olberholtzer in the sixth with two on and two outs, walked pinch hitter Coco Crisp but got Lowrie to pop up to end the inning.
Lowrie had a chance for redemption leading off the ninth.
"It was the first (time) I'd ever faced Qualls, but I knew he had a sinker-slider, and I'm just looking for a pitch to hit hard," Lowrie said. "He left a slider up enough to hold my hands inside and I hit it out."
Nick Punto, who started at second base for Oakland, finished with three hits, including one sliding head-first into first base in the sixth inning.
Scott Kazmir started for the A's and went eight innings. He allowed six hits and three runs, two earned, struck out five and walked none. Over four starts with his new club, Kazmir has 24 strikeouts and he has walked just four.
Kazmir had not allowed a homer in his first three starts and 21 1/3 innings until the third inning Saturday, when shortstop Jonathan Villar crushed a ball over the fence in dead center.
Reliever Dan Otero came on to pitch the ninth for the A's, earning the win (3-0).
Craig Gentry, starting in center for Oakland with Crisp on the bench, came within inches of getting his glove on the ball after a leaping attempt.
Villar's blast, his third of the season, was Houston's first hit of the game off Kazmir.
Kazmir has not allowed many homers over his past 22 starts -- just eight total.
The A's tied it up against left-hander Brett Oberholtzer in the bottom of the inning, which first baseman Daric Barton led off with a double to right center, snapping an 0-for-11 streak. Gentry followed with a double to left, sending in Barton.
Gentry was in center in place of Crisp because the A's would prefer not to have Crisp bat right-handed after he received a cortisone shot in his left wrist a week ago. Manager Bob Melvin said he expected Crisp to be available off the bench and to be able to hit against left-handers as soon as Sunday.
The Astros jumped back ahead in the fourth inning. Designated hitter Chris Carter doubled with one out and third baseman Matt Dominguez sent him in with a single; Carter was safe in a bang-bang play at the plate.
Houston's next run came in the fifth, courtesy of more poor A's defense. The A's have made four errors in the past two games, and in the fifth Villar doubled, stole second and scored on catcher Derek Norris' throwing error past third base. Oakland's 18 errors lead the majors.
NOTES: OF Alex Presley remained out of the starting lineup with the flu-like bug that has hit the Astros the past week. ... A's LHP Eric O'Flaherty, who had Tommy John surgery last year, threw a bullpen session at the Coliseum on Saturday morning and used all of his pitches. Manager Bob Melvin said O'Flaherty might be ready to throw to hitters when the A's return from their next road trip in early May, the next step before any potential rehab assignment. ... Melvin anticipated no second-day flare-ups after some hard feelings over Jed Lowrie's first-inning bunt attempt on Friday; the A's were up 7-0 at the time but the Astros were playing Lowrie in a shift. "I gave them an out. I did what they wanted me to do," Lowrie said Saturday. ... Astros RHP Paul Clemens threw a pitch that nearly hit Lowrie in the legs his second at-bat Friday, then Houston manager Bo Porter came out and yelled at Lowrie. Said Melvin, "Hopefully we can move on. I don't think it was that big an issue, to tell you the truth."