OAKLAND As a team, the A's are at the bottom of almost every meaningful hitting category except the most joyous getting a victory cream pie in the face.
Somehow, someway they lead all of baseball in walk-off wins and accompanying cream pies, a custom enthusiastically celebrated Wednesday afternoon. This time, it was utility infielder Brandon Hicks who stroked his first career home run to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning and secure a 4-3 comeback win over the Texas Rangers.
It was Oakland's ninth walk-off win, the most in the majors and the latest chapter in this most interesting A's season in six years.
When few expected it, there is a special alchemy growing within the young Oakland clubhouse.
"We just feel good, based on past experiences, of getting in that situation," said A's manager Bob Melvin.
Befitting a team in which someone different often delivers in big moments, all nine walk-off wins have come with a different Athletic at the plate.
So momentous was Hicks' blast for both player and team the recent River Cat call-up got two cream pies in the face.
"It was awesome," said Hicks, an Atlanta Braves castoff plucked off waivers by the A's in March and sent to Sacramento, where he struggled mightily at first.
The 26-year-old native of Pasadena, Texas, is so off the A's radar he's not even in their media guide. In his first 117 at-bats for Triple-A Sacramento, Hicks had all of one home run as a River Cat.
Then he hit 12 in his next 122.
He had 18 RBIs in his past eight games as a River Cat before getting the call June 23 to head down Interstate 80 to Oakland.
River Cats media guy Zak Basch drove Hicks to O.co Coliseum himself as Hicks kept a quiet demeanor along the way.
"He's super-humble," Basch said.
You have to be if you're going to survive in baseball while traveling the uncertain road Hicks took to the greatest thrill of his baseball life Wednesday.
Hicks was initially sent to Sacramento strictly as an added piece to the big puzzle. While several of his River Cats teammates were called to Oakland, Hicks struggled as a River Cat.
"You start off slow like that, you try and impress, do too much, and it gets you into even more trouble," Hicks told The Bee's Matt Kawahara last month.
When he led off the ninth inning Wednesday, it was his first at-bat in the game after entering as a pinch runner.
"The inning before, I was thinking if the Rangers sent (Michael) Kirkman out there (in the ninth) it's a good matchup for Hicks," Melvin said.
On a 1-1 count, Hicks launched a deep home run to center field off Kirkman.
A good-size crowd for an Oakland afternoon 20,249 went wild.
While wearing a headset to speak with A's broadcasters, Hicks was pelted with the cream pie, water and Gatorade as the crowd roared its approval.
What a story these A's are in 2012. Their 10-2 record in July is the best in the majors. After ending Oakland's four-game win streak Tuesday night, Texas on Wednesday took a 3-1 lead on a run-scoring double by center fielder Craig Gentry in the fifth inning and run-scoring singles by designated hitter Michael Young and right fielder Nelson Cruz in the sixth.
All the A's could manage for a time was a solo home run in the fifth inning by third baseman Brandon Inge. It looked bad for Oakland until Josh Reddick a revelation in right field blasted a two-run double to tie the score in the seventh.
Suddenly, worries of a two-game funk leading into a four-game series with the New York Yankees disappeared.
You could feel the anticipation. Then Hicks swung and this old place exploded.
"We're hungry," said A's starter Travis Blackley in his Australian accent. "Everyone wants to get hit with that pie."
As he answered reporters' questions in the clubhouse, Hicks didn't see Reddick coming at him in a garish gold and green bathrobe.
Appearing behind a bank of reporters, Reddick shoved another cream pie in Hicks' surprised face.
Considering his journey, all Hicks did was flash the biggest, sweetest smile this clubhouse has seen since the last pie-in-the-face victory.
It was infectious.